Trollhunter presents its protagonists with a set of problems larger than life in a literal sense. This is odd, considering that when one looks at a country’s problems as its defining factors in the modern context, nations in Eastern Europe are often the last which come to mind. These nations often have no pests to show underneath their First World veneer, but Trollhunter takes the visual of an idealistic East European countryside and gives it a supernatural bend to highlight the trouble buried underneath miles of snow.
The threat seen here is in the trolls mentioned by its title, whose presence evoke a small-scale Kaiju-like threat to its main characters, a group of inquisitive college students who are in over their head, but remain loyal to the pursuit of the truth behind the troll problem. The threat is kept a secret by multiple groups working together to perform a bureaucratic burial of the threat these monsters pose. These groups, which serve to be just as antagonistic as the trolls. Having these people serve as co-antagonist to the threat they’re out to reduce gives the film a better allusion to the threat of climate change and those working to bypass the issue rather than address it, as well as a morally ambiguous perspective that conflicts its audience as much as the people holding and in front of the camera we see it through – a feat that’s impressive for a film dominantly comedic in nature.
Trollhunter walks the line between dry & subtle comedy and dramatic undertones without thinking too hard. Yes, this is a story about a comically serious old man hunting fantastical creatures rendered with distracting CGI, but said man’s comically serious nature is rooted in something unspoken, and these fantastical creatures murder one main character and sentence another to a death by rabies, and the film makes these stakes clear. The film is known as a somewhat-parody of The Blair Witch Project, and instead of playing the visceral dramatic performances of the former as comedy, Trollhunter instead flips them into cold, repressed character beats one would characterize as “very East European”.
The film, while not one of my favorites, is distinct in its mix of approaches to the things it dwells on – Norway’s culture (both social and mythological), environment, and the parties that run it (or run it into the ground, as the film tonally implies). The mix of drama, comedy, found footage camera work, and CGI make for an uneven experience, but the film, like its protagonists, earns the right to broadcast the messages it wants to communicate to its audience.