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Fantastic Fest 2010: The Trollhunter

As the stranglehold of the mockumentary craze tightens upon the horror genre and viewers begin to be weary of the storytelling shortcuts and incomprehensible action inherent in the style, something astounding keeps happening: directors find new ways to make it work. The Trollhunter, to be fair, is much more of a fantasy comedy than a horror but it makes enough use of the classic horror tropes to consider it such.

The story focuses on three friends–cameraman, sound, and narration–traipsing around the Norwegian woods with Norway’s single designated trollhunter. They hope to catch the elusive creatures on film, and their guide aims to help them. Obviously, there’s a necessary level of self-aware humor required to make such a premise work. The film does a fantastic job of filling out the specifics of troll behavior, the bureaucratic cover-up of troll-related destruction, and the quirks of the old trollhunter. And the behavior of the three friends–aghast, excited, inquisitive–is usually plain funny, and they make a great foil for their knowledgeable, tight-lipped, and wearily professional guide.

While there’s a little build-up, tension, and ambiguity, the film does unleash the trolls pretty early on. The rest of the film explores the intricacies of the troll population and the effects of killing them. For much of The Trollhunter, no clear agenda or propulsive plot exists to carry the viewer along, but credit the film’s plain sense of discovery and compelling characters which hold viewer’s interests. The trolls, when they are encountered, are given ample lighting and screen-time so there’s no room for terrible animation. And the animation here isn’t perfect, but it’s quite good, and if it doesn’t look photo-realistic it still fits with the goofy aesthetic of the whole picture. The last scene (goofy or not) boasts some fabulous special effects that play a huge role in what is an awe-inspiring, grand and gorgeous finale.

This is still a ways from distribution, and it could change considerably before it hits theatres, but the film already stands as refreshingly unique and funny–a surprising take on the genre. It may divide viewers because of its dearth of scares and odd pacing but for fans of fantasy and viewers ready to suspend some disbelief, The Trollhunter is a charming, sort of moving, little journey.

– Emmet Duff

Visit the official website for Fantastic Fest 2010