Troll Hunter DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Momentum Pictures
Directed by André Øvredal
Written by André Øvredal and Håvard S. Johansen
2010, Region 2 (PAL), 103 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 9th January 2012
Otto Jespersen as Hans
Glenn Erland Tosterud as Thomas
Johanna Mørck as Johanna
Tomas Alf Larsen as Kalle
Troll Hunter was one of the films shown during last year’s Frightfest and at the time I was fairly cool with my feelings towards it. Shown on the massive Empire screen with incredible audio, this big-scale found footage monster movie should have been an instant hit. But it wasn’t. At the time I found it a bit too lacking in action and slightly over long.
So when the review disc dropped through my door, I was in two minds whether to watch it again or to send it on to one of our writers who may appreciate it more. Given that extra viewings of films are a luxury I can seldom afford, I made the decision to take another look at it. And you know what? I enjoyed it much more at home than I did in the cinema.
Troll Hunter takes a mock cinéma vérité approach to its subject, as a bunch of student documentary makers begin to investigate strange instances of bear poaching. The subject of their film is Hans (Norwegian comedian Otto Jesperson), who they believe to be responsible for the many recent bear deaths. What actually transpires is that Hans is actually a Troll Hunter working for the TSS (Troll Security Service), a shady government department that is trying to keep Norway’s largest indigenous breed a secret.
Hans is sick of the government bullshit he has to deal with, so eventually allows the documentary crew access to film him going about his work. This is a student project the filmmakers could only have dreamed of… or is it?
The use of unknown actors (plus Norwegian comedians who are, outside of Norway, pretty much unknown too) lends an authentic air to Troll Hunter, which is absolutely essential to sell the documentary feel. And it’s a wise choice of unknowns as Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), sound-girl Johanna (Johanna Mørck), and cameraman Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), make a convincing team of filmmaking wannabes. The relationship between the students and Hans starts off extremely hostile, yet after Hans gives in and allows them to film, he mellows and the difficult situation develops into one of mutual respect.
For a film such as this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would be an all-out monster movie with troll action at every turn. Sadly not. If you’re expecting Jurassic Park with trolls you’ll be sorely disappointed, although the brief handful of scenes with the titular giants plays out very well. There’s just a bit too much hunting; between contact with the monsters there is examination of signs of troll activity and lots of driving. So much driving. After a while, the droning sound of a Land Rover’s engine and the constant sweep of wiper blades starts to grate. Credit has to go to the filmmakers (the actual ones, not the students) in utilising natural aspects of the Norwegian countryside to show troll activity.
As with all found footage films, there has to be an excuse to keep filming at all times, and the documentary filming gives good reason for this. It stretches credibility somewhat when Kalle continues filming while being pursued by a 50ft three-headed Toserlad through a forest, but we can just about accept it. Later in the film, after contact with a group of Mountain Kings, Thomas spends time getting their broken camera up and running at a time when broken cameras would be the least of their worries.
So why the heck did I enjoy this more at home than in a cinema? Beats me. I still think there’s a bit too much hunting and not enough trolls and the fantastic beasts remain under exposed in the film. But a second viewing allows the subtle humour and the relationships between the characters to come through more, and that’s just as enjoyable as watching a Land Rover dodge the feet of a 200-foot Jotnar. Troll Hunter is big, but maybe it’s not quite big enough for the Empire’s Screen One.
Video and Audio:
The film is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio (1.77:1) as an unprocessed and rough-cut highlight reel of the several hundred hours of footage that was discovered. Expect plenty of hand-held camerawork and jump cuts to add to the authenticity. The audio is Norwegian 5.1 and kicks some serious behind, especially during the troll attack scenes. For the terminally stupid there's the option of a ridiculous English (read American) dub which is awful.
Extras include a trailer, deleted scenes, improvs and bloopers, extended scenes, visual effects, behind the scenes, HDNet feature: A Look at Troll Hunter and photo galleries. It's all reasonably interesting stuff for a single viewing but little more.