“No one here believes in God or Jesus?”: Trollhunter (2010)

dir. André Øvredal

Trollhunter is a refreshing take in a market saturated by unimaginative found footage films. Mockumentaries are often hit-or-miss affairs for me, and this one definitely hits a lot of the right notes. Who knew trolls were all we needed to reinvigorate a tired genre?

This is a movie that attempts to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality. College students attempt to uncover the truth about bear-poaching in Norway but instead get more than what they bargained for. We, as the audience, are in for a wild ride as Hans the trollhunter runs from the woods and screams “Troll!” into the camera. From then on, it becomes an adventure movie in which we learn more about the existence and presence of trolls in Norway.

This movie succeeds because of the details that make its world just a bit more magical. The Norwegian landscapes are a given but they add a certain atmosphere to the movie that make it feel more alive and more realistic. It’s also nice that the movie attempts to give a scientific explanation to several elements of troll lore. For example, the film gives a reason as to why some of them have 3 heads and why they turn to stone under the sun. I’m very unfamiliar with troll mythos and I don’t know what it mentions or if it says anything at all about their ability to sniff out Christians, but that was a really fun and interesting detail to add to the film. For me, that particular detail actually gives the movie a comedic side despite going with more of a horror/thriller tone for the most part.

It’s also impressive how the filmmakers managed to make the CGI look acceptable. I wasn’t expecting much but the design of the trolls were alright despite the film’s relatively low budget. It’s obviously a mockumentary but what makes it even better is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The performances within this movie are also appreciated. Hans is portrayed brilliantly by Otto Jesperson who gives the character depth and steers him away from being one dimensional. He has a great moment in a scene where he empathizes with the trolls, seeing them not merely just as chaotic hazards but more as sentient, feeling creatures. However, the same treatment or depth is not given to the other characters. I wish we could’ve had the chance to know them better. Even when one of them dies, it’s the guy who spent 80% of the movie behind the camera. So there’s no emotional attachment there whatsoever and there’s no effect to the viewers emotionally. I just really wish that that scene had more gravitas to it; it would’ve made the entire ‘this is based on a true story’ concept feel a little bit more real with a sudden drastic tone shift in the movie.

The movie ends with two playful twists, the first one being that the trolls have rabies and one of our main characters is possible afflicted with it now as well. It’s left open ended and it’s both funny and tragic to think of the outcome of that event. The last scene is the news clip where government officials straight up talk about the existence of trolls but is then ignored.

I do hope that someday, some local director sees this movie, realizes how rich filipino folk lore is, and creates a movie that explores it just as Trollhunter did. There have been attempts, but none that have made it to mainstream consciousness as far as I know. I sure would enjoy an in depth look into a tikbalang’s lifestyle, especially with the humorous tone that Trollhunter gave its titular monsters.


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