At its worst, ‘The Troll Hunter’ meanders and falls short of laughs for extended periods of time

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The Troll Hunter

Directed by André Øvredal

Norway, 2010

The Troll Hunter takes on such an exhaustive list of pre-existing horror/mockumentary tropes that its technique becomes as much a joke as its content: shaky-camera, night-vision, impossibly huge antagonists, long-lost footage. At least The Troll Hunter is very self-aware, making it more Big Man Japan than Blair Witch Project.

A group of film students investigate a series of suspicious bear killings. Their inquiry is sidetracked when they happen upon The Troll Hunter (Otto Jespersen) – a quietly cantankerous man whom they soon find out works for the Norwegian government in hunting and killing trolls that have escaped from their predetermined territory.

The trolls are largely unseen for the first 20 minutes of the film, and the director plays it well, keeping the audience in genre-suspense. Is this a comedy or horror film? The first appearance of a troll, which looks like a gigantic Muppet, sets the tone.

At its best, The Troll Hunter takes fairy tale-logic and twists the stories to great comedic effect. Filmmaker Øvredal gets the most mileage out of the old wives’ tale that trolls can smell the blood of Christians. In one particularly hilarious sequence The Troll Hunter blasts quaint church music from the speakers of his truck to distract a rabid troll from its rampage.

At its worst, The Troll Hunter meanders and falls short of laughs for extended periods of time. Rarely laugh-out-loud funny, the film relies heavily on its creature design and absurd government-conspiracy plot, neither of which maintains interest beyond their introduction.

The technique of The Troll Hunter is what really bogs it down for its final 15 minutes. An out-of-control handheld camera dominating, you’ll wish after a while that the troll kills the fictional camera operator, if only so the camera will fall to the ground and remain still.

Poor excuses for comedy mask the weak structure and the gimmick of the script: a disclaimer at the beginning of the film states that this is only a ‘rough cut,’ the camera lens breaks allowing for a random jump forward in time while the replacement lens is purchased.

Shaky, uninteresting camera, impressive digital effects, effective comedy offset by a weak script -it shouldn’t be any surprise that a big-budget American remake is in the works.

– Nead Dhand

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