In recent years Norway and its border buddies Sweden and Finland sure have made moody, atmospheric horror movies a top popcult export — Villmark (2003), Cold Prey (2006), Frostbitten (2006), Let the Right One In (2008), Dead Snow (2009), Hidden (2009), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010).... Hey, it's only natural from the moody, atmospheric land that gave us Beowulf, lutefisk, and Renee Zellweger.
Norway's entry in the "found footage" subgenre, Troll Hunter continues the trend with a Cloverfield-scale monster flick pitting flesh-eating behemoths against puny humans with night-vision cameras and modern weapons, plus a hush-hush secret government agency trying to keep the lid on the monsters' very existence.
What makes Troll Hunter stand out, though, is the welcome addition of a wry comic edge that makes the whole thing more at home under the Horror-Comedy label than Horror-Thriller.
|Then Ole says to Sven, "Oh, I thought you said toll bridge."|
Oh, and they're big. Really, really big.
The description on SIFF's page is correct in pointing out the Scooby Doo vibe found in the three college students comprising the foolishly reckless camera crew ("Mystery, Inc.") that insists on discovering what the reclusive, surly stranger Hans is up to. Reputed to be a poacher shooting bears without a license, Hans instead is using the bear carcasses as a cover to explain the misdeeds of his true nocturnal prey. Hans is solitary and world-weary and hates his "shitty job," but he's the Troll Security Service's go-to expert when it comes to troll eradication, traveling into the deepest woods and near-arctic wastes in his foul-smelling, tricked out Range Rover (that's perforated with giant claw marks) and his troll-killing arsenal. As Hans, Otto Jespersen delivers flinty anti-heroicism like he's crossing Henrik Ibsen with Quint from Jaws. This lone gunman may be a pain in his bosses' side, but he knows and understands these brutes like he's the lead in Deadliest Catch: Grimm Reality!
After a surprise encounter with a three-headed "Tusseladd" — Hans expected it to be a "Ringlefinch"; Troll Hunter creates its own troll taxonomy — the man with the plan agrees to let those meddling kids follow him and record his activities. It isn't long before the three young filmmakers wish they'd stayed home and listened to Björk albums instead.
Troll Hunter is also draggy in spots and would benefit from a 15-minute trim. Still, stay with it until the final showdown with the Godzilla-sized "Rotnar" that has broken through the electric fence surrounding its deep-forest preserve — Norway's long-distance power grid gets a witty cameo role here — a climax that looks sensational and somehow avoids jumping any giant Norwegian sharks.
This morning Elizabeth and I punctuated our waking-up and getting-ready-for-the-day by randomly exclaiming "Troll!" at key moments. I predict we'll be doing it for weeks.
Music: Dvořák's Symphony No. 9
Near at hand: B.B. King concert poster