Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Trollhunter ( Trolljegeren )

 Well after my post yesterday saying I won't get to any of the NZFF's screenings today I turned myself into a liar! With nothing of particular interest at my local cinema this coming Thursday I used the set aside funds to make a trip out of town. With over 20 films to pick from it was a difficult choice to make on what to see and what to sadly forgo. I picked this because I saw another Norwegian film Dead Snow several years ago in 2009 at that year's NZFF. That was an excellent zombie flick that was both gory and bloody funny to boot.

 So on the strength of Dead Snow I decided to see Trollhunter. The immediate thing that struck me was in the last few years it is the Spanish and Norwegians who have made the better, more interesting horror type films. Unfortunately the Spanish films have undergone re-makes, most notable the more than impressive [REC]. On coming home today and doing some digging on Trollhunter I found that it to is to be remade by an American studio!! The amazing thing is is that interest in a remake was expressed well before the original was even released in Norway!! Apparently on its opening day the rights to a remake were sold to company, 1492, ( never heard of it but there you have it ).

 The film of course is in the 'found footage' mockumentary genre. I do like this genre, and a lot, so my expectations were high as to what Trollhunter was going to produce. By the end I got what I was expecting, but somehow I haven't warmed to it and I'm struggling to define the why?. It certainly isn't a quality issue even though it was made on an obviously small budget. Even the use of complete unknowns, excepting lead character Hans, played by Norwegian comedian Otto Jesperem, isn't an issue. So what is bugging me??

 On release the film received generally favourable reviews in Norway. The surprising thing is that even though the film was known to being made, it was amazing kept in relative secrecy until its debut screening. This was a clever marketing ploy as it built up an uncommon amount of interest in the film well before its release. But whilst reviews have been generally favorable one Norwegian critic succinctly reminded us that the genre is now somewhat exhausted, calling it 'overused', 'flat' and 'predictable'. And to be honest whilst I liked Trollhunter those words probably sum it up.

 Don't get me wrong there is a lot to like but the genre is somewhat limited by what it can do. Unfortunately for me Trollhunter exposes this. For me the only original element here was the taking of the Scandinavian myth of Trolls and turning them into real creatures. But after that it is the same old thing as any other 'found footage' film. The first problem for this film is it is too long by at least 20 minutes. If the tension was built up more then the length wouldn't be a problem, but it is like a flatline right throughout and doesn't waver enough. This flatness made the film feel like it was well over two hours long!

 This is the greatest criticism I have the sameness of it all. Nothing seemed to change right throughout and there was no Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity build up or tension. Trollhunter bounced between inside vehicle shots to outside shots to inside vehicle shots and so on. Sure that was the nature of Troll hunting but it became too familiar too quickly for me. But one great thing about the filming is the Norwegian scenery which is both breath taking and awe inspiring. If nothing else this film will get many people interested in visiting Norway just to see the scenery in person!

 The CGI is actually quite reasonable considering the small budget of the film. This is fortunate because unlike many of these 'found footage' films we actually get to see the trolls. Think Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity where there is no witch or demon seen at all. But Trollhunter isn't a film with a few shaky trees and grunts as we get to see trolls! Lots of them!! For me this is fortunate because without visible trolls then this film would not have worked and been deservedly panned. The trolls do look good and realistic enough as to avoid cringe worthiness as well....whew!!

 The other strong point is the character of Hans. He is Norway's only troll hunter and the film makers had latched on to in the belief he was an illegal bear poacher. But they soon find out his real vocation. He keeps them on as he is sick of his job, wanting the secret of the troll's existence  finally exposed. The part is well played and actually quite convincing! I certainly think he, along with the visible trolls, are the film's two strengths.

 I won't give too much away, but it ends in very much the unexplained manner, as it starts in the two tapes were found way as the genre tends to do. I'm not sure if this worked and again the lack of suspense and mystery are palpably missing. But interestingly one of Norway's social issues is tied into the very ending which is quite a cool touch. I liked how a Norwegian myth was played into a topical issue.

 So what of Trollhunter? Is it any good? Is it worth seeing? Is it a must see? Well like so many films it is horses for courses. There are two things I like about this film, the character of Hans and seeing trolls and not a whole heap of shaky cam stuff. But if you take these two things out there isn't alot else I can say. It is competently made but somehow even though the use of Trolls is original the 'found footage' approach looked tired to me. The real problem is the scenes were too similar and they tended to meld into one another. This made the film feel far longer than it was. I mean I left the theatre surprised it was only 103 minutes long as it felt more like 120 +. The similarity is compounded by a decided lack of tension or change in pace or tempo. It was virtually the same pacing no matter the scene or where it was filmed, whether inside a vehicle or not.

 In the end I can't say I didn't like Trollhunter. There are quite a number of humorous moments, the troll angle is original, Hans is a cool character, but somehow the film left me with an empty, unfulfilled feeling. I really think that maybe the premise has been stretched too far. Trollhunter seemed to me to be exposing the limits of this type of film. I certainly can't say rush off and see it. 5.5/10 from me, mainly for each scene being too similar to the last which lead to an over long feel. A film that left me feeling somewhat....50/50 about.

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  1. A movie I was undecided about, you have helped with my decision.

  2. To be honest it is probaly one to save for DVD.

  3. Slightly disappointing to read because I've been looking forwards to this; its had some good reviews over here and I haven't quite had enough of the found-footage genre yet. Maybe that means I'll get a little more out of it than you. Incidentally (and I don't know why this is) I've always found found-footage films better on the small screen at home than the large one in the cinema. Perhaps, with what look like impressive monsters, this won't generate the same feeling but all the same, it might be worth revisiting on DVD.

  4. It is certainly getting good reviews isn't it? I just felt it somewhat flat for some frustrating reason. It is definitely worth watching but I don't think it is one that you need to rush out immediatley to see.
    Interesting about the small screen! This isn't a horror per se like Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch so in hindsight I would rather have waited to watch it on DVD and see a better film on the big screen.
    I stress it isn't bad, just flat.

  5. Trollhunter was showing at the QFT although I didn't know much about it for some reason it appealed.

    I think I have missed the showing but if I stumble across the dvd I might give it a whirl!

    I keep on seeing the dvd for Dead Snow and I never buy it - did you review it at the time? If you did will you repost your link so I can read it?

    Glad you got to the festival :-)

  6. Came and went here but I was interested in seeing but hope to catch it on video.

    I know what you mean by the genre itself being worn out, it'll take another clever turn to really do something special, at the very least it has to be better than Apollo 18 which bored me to tears....

  7. Dead Snow was two years ago..but what ever you do get the DVD because it is an excellent, excellent zombie flick! Gory and funny, what more can you ask for???!!!! By allmeans give Trollhunter a whirl as it isn't bad just....flat. thoughts exactly!! The genre needs another turn as it is showing its limitations. Hopefully someone soon will take it on board and take the genre the step forward it now needs.