Upon hearing the title of André Øvredal’s 2010 Norwegian fantasy film Trollhunter, images of action, horror, and violence flood our minds. However, this film takes us instead on an adventure along with three young students on a troll hunt, set against the backdrop of a beautiful Norwegian scenery. They did warn us that the Trollhunter can also be considered a horror film but while I was expecting jump scares, I was surprised instead with a presentation of different kinds of trolls and their natural habitats.
With this, the film allows us to appreciate Norwegian culture, unlike other films we watched during the semester for our European Cinema class. Instead of simply focusing on the characters, Trollhunters feature beautiful landscapes, Norwegian folktales, and a touch on religion, which enriches the story. For Christians, such as myself, we are intrigued as to why trolls prefer Christian blood. Yet, after discovering that religion is part of their folktales and culture, things made more sense. Moreover, the appearance of several townspeople in the film, including the government, made it feel as if we are getting to know real people and unveiling the culture of a real town. We get to see their attitude towards things that cannot be explained, such as trolls. What was striking in the film was how the troll hunter named Hans admitted that he is tired of not getting the credit he deserves from hiding the existence of the trolls from society. Here, the film shifts the focus from trolls to the townspeople and explores how the issue affects them differently. We recognize the humanity and dignity of Hans, as opposed to viewing him simply as someone who gets rid of trolls. In this way, the film captures the horrible reality of life, where Norwegian people get to revel in blissful ignorance while Hans work hard to keep them safe. Being a troll hunter is not as cool as we thought.
Aside from being considered a horror film, Trollhunter also falls under the fantasy category. One aspect that we do not usually encounter with fantasy films is the use of a found footage or mock documentary style of storytelling. As an audience, you feel part of the student’s adventure because you get to see the foregrounding of production. We become quite unsure what is real and what is fantasy because of how the scenes were composed, how the actors for the students effectively portrayed terror and confusion, and how Øvredal featured different trolls, making them appear as realistic as any other animal. With that said, CGI effects often translate to bad quality films but with Trollhunter, the CGI effects of the trolls were flawless because they appeared lifelike and intimidating. The scene where both the trolls and the actors were in the same frame was commendable. If you are not from Norway, you will begin to wonder whether trolls really do exist, similar to how you debate whether there is any truth to a horror film that claims to be based on a true story. The fact that the film ends with an archive footage of the current Prime Minister of Norway mentioning trolls at a press conference boggles our minds. The film succeeds in making us question reality, which is why I believe it does fall under counter-cinema. In contrast to the fact that many mock documentaries are comedic, Trollhunter does not merely serve as a form of entertainment; rather, the film tickles your mind and plants questions that you would not have considered before.