The Troll Hunter exhibits the dry humor that Norway is known for with an innovative twist on the first-person monster flick. Where Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project heavily relied on viral marketing and failed to meet expectations, The Troll Hunter excels, at least in America, because of its lack of marketing due to its Otherness and because of the creative ways in which these trolls are shown. The faux-documentary format has become overused in most cases, and this film has been able shake most of the concerns that have hindered the style in the past.
A trio of students begin to follow and film Hans, a suspected bear poacher. They follow Hans into the forest at night, only to find Hans yell “Troll!” and quickly run away from the area that he was in. The students’ vehicle has been overturned and the tires ripped cleanly off the wheels. The students then join Hans on his quest to hunt for trolls that have escaped from their territories.
The internet has had its fair share of trolls. Random anonymous individuals who appear and cause unnecessary damage to forums and comment sections, and then disappear. Here, The Troll Hunter makes this digital catastrophe a reality. The folktales that have existed for centuries have now come to light, yet these folktales never created a logical taxonomy of species and sub-species like the film has.
Hans appears to be the lone troll hunter, but he is merely a pawn in a much larger conspiracy. He has to use many of the same strategies and hunting techniques that are used to hunt bears or other menacing beasts. Like any government worker, Hans complains of the long hours, excessive over time, low pay, and lack of respect in the community. He is still committed to the cause, even sympathizing with the trolls at certain times and concerned about possible changes in environment that might be the catalyst for the trolls temptations to escape from their territories.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the inclusion of Christianity in the film. That is not to say this is a religious film, but apparently, the trolls can pick up the scent of a Christian. Hans, with a strictly deadpan look, asks the students if they are Christians and later he has to dump Christian blood on a bridge in order to lure a troll out of hiding. Do supposed born-again Christians count? What about Christians-turned-atheists? Later, a replacement student is recruited who turns out to be Muslim and is unsure of their safety. Hans’ response? “We’ll find out.” The religious connotations build up on the dry wit in the film. Whether any of these characters are religious or not, seeing and fleeing from a grotesque troll will certainly reveal, or even reduce one’s interest in religion.
As explained earlier with the first-person camera work, the cinematography is spotty and designed to create the urgency of a government conspiracy that is being covered up. The computer-generated trolls are not too different from those found in children’s books or medieval fantasies. Due to the mostly dark scenes in which the trolls appear, they well rendered and the differences between species is stellar. Late in the film, the camera is dropped, cracking the lens. The rest of the film features this cracked lens which represents the loss of one of the students and the irrecoverable damage of the initial unit.
Hollywood itself is a troll that sniffs for the blood of economic opportunity and attempts to gobble up anything that is fresh and original. The Troll Hunter is slated for a Hollywood remake in the future and the question will, of course, be whether the remake can build upon the aspects found in the original and make it something even fresher, or will Hollywood simply create another sheep stranded on the bridge. Regardless, The Troll Hunter uses previously successful tropes of vérité and viral marketing in American monster flicks and places a new spin on Norwegian folktales. It is a film that is welcomed for the time being and go on to become a Foreign classic that delivers.