TrollHunter, opening today in Los Angeles and playing other US cities this summer. After centuries of seclusion in their remote territories — monitored by the secretive Troll Security Service (TSS) — the giant beasts have begun rampaging beyond their traditional fjords and caves. Could this be the result of humans encroaching on their land? Global warming? Some kind of infection or disease?
A group of college students has noticed an unusual degree of government activity in the troll-impacted areas. Unaware of the existence of trolls and suspecting bears instead, they set out with video cameras to document "the truth." Needless to say, the students can't all handle the truth. This is especially the case for the closeted Christian among them since, faithful to troll specs, the critters can smell believers' blood and aren't fond of it.
Filmgoers have endured similar faux exposés of the supernatural captured on video in recent years, ever since the blockbuster success of 1999's low-budget The Blair Witch Project. We've seen shaky-cam hauntings (Paranormal Activity 1 and 2), possessions (The Last Exorcism), zombie uprisings (Diary of the Dead), monster attacks (Cloverfield) and alien invasions (Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles). TrollHunter doesn't offer anything new to the genre, but it rises a notch above most of these entries thanks to its excellent special effects. The visual and sound designs for the trolls bring the simultaneously amusing but scary creatures to vivid cinematic life.
Øvredal's screenplay riffs cleverly on Norwegian folklore and history as well as science, religion and government conspiracy theories. For example, we're informed that trolls customarily consume large amounts of charcoal and concrete because they suffer from "calcium deficiency," and a new member of the documentary team responds "Muslim is OK, right?" after learning of the trolls' violent aversion to Christianity. The actors are adequate for their naïve-student roles, although veteran Otto Jespersen is great as the film's crusading title character.
One has to wonder what's next in the burgeoning series of documentary style creatures-on-camera epics; dragons, fairies or gnomes seem like prime candidates. In the meantime, TrollHunter offers some unique and entertaining modern twists on the legends of old.
Reverend's Rating: B-
UPDATE: TrollHunter is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.