Saturday, 11 February 2012

TROLL HUNTER DVD review

Fusing the Blair Witch Project with Jurassic Park, Troll Hunter is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, watch the trailer and read my review, next.

Three college students hoping to be documentarians follow a mysterious hunter known only as Hans around the unforgiving Norwegian landscape. Initially thinking him to be an illegal bear hunter, a trip down to the woods reveals him to be on the look out for something a bit more deadly. Trolls. Not quite the same as the little guys you used to sit on top on pencils, these trolls are gigantic beasts that roam the Norwegian lands, kept out of sight from the locals by Hans and his array of weaponry. When Hans decides that having a camera crew around might be a good idea, he invites them to join him as he hunts for trolls on the loose.


Another example of the ongoing trend for found footage films but done quite effectively. Unlike more recent examples that have messed around with the parameters set out by the genre (yes, Chronicle, I mean you), Troll Hunter is all the more successful for sticking to the rules; one person behind the camera, filming all the action. As curious a beast as the trolls it features, Troll Hunter isn't quite sure what it is. Despite moments of fear it's not a horror and a few jokes don't make it a comedy. It's best described as a monster movie in the oldest tradition, i.e. it's an age before you see anything on screen and even then it's only fleeting. Sandwiched somewhere between Monsters and Cloverfield in terms of action, as impressive as the trolls are, there's just not enough of them.

The found footage film it has the most in common with is the 1992 Belgian film, Man Bites Dog. There a camera crew followed around a serial killer as he went about his daily routine, here it's the same basic principle except Hans' targets are a bit bigger. There's the same willingness and desire to be filmed, either out of vanity or the hope to change their situation, and the crew become equally involved in his exploits, willing contributors to Hans' goals. Hans is a lot more sympathetic a character than Man Bites Dog's hitman Ben, talking about the massacre of trolls like he's a nazi war criminal, a genocide he has committed to keep Norway safe.


The trolls do look fantastic. Rendered in CGI but with a stop motion plasticine aesthetic, they interact with their surroundings and the human characters believably. A monster movie can switch from good to bad depending on the creature design, but they've got some awesome looking monsters here. Scary whilst being fun to look at, if some of their overall effect is lost in translation (the unfortunately named troll Tosserlad a source of unintentional hilarity) there's no denying that these beasts are memorable.


A fun idea that's not as goofy as you'd think; if anything, it could have benefitted from being a bit more tongue in cheek. There's an inherent comedy in looking for trolls that's never fully explored, instead focusing on the serious implications on Hans' psyche. The confrontation with the trolls are good, Hans suited up and kitted out in the makeshift armour that's protected him for decades. It's the in between bits featuring the camera crew getting to know Hans that drag, and you find yourself waiting for the next troll sighting. Their extermination is caught on camera with dramatic effect, either turning into stone or exploding at the sight of Hans' high powered flash bulbs.


Saved somewhat by a grandiose chase sequence finale featuring a gigantic 200ft tall troll known as the Ringlefinch, Troll Hunter wears its Blair Witch meets Jurassic Park inspiration on its sleeve. If you're able to forgive its slow exposition heavy scenes, there's plenty of enjoyable moments made all the more memorable by some truly great creature design.


Verdict




Special Features: Deleted Scenes, Improvs and Bloopers, Extended Scenes, Visual Effects, Behind the Scenes, Photo Galleries, Trailer, A Look at Trollhunter.

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