Monday, October 17, 2016

Trollhunter (2010)

New favourite alert!

I started watching this Norwegian found footage tale more out of duty to my list, than actually being excited to see it. I am an idiot.

Taking the form of a documentary made by a few college kids about Hans, a mysterious hunter, this film handles its rather outlandish subject matter with confidence and humour.

Initially thought to be a bear poacher, it transpires Hans is the trollhunter of the title. He lives a lonely nocturnal life working for the TSS (Troll Security Service) smothering himself in stink and tracking and killing wayward trolls, thus keeping livestock and (unaware) human populations protected. 

Hans has seen some bad shit, and he's done worse. He's tired and sick of the bureaucracy of his job, so he lets the kids tag along for the ride, hoping to spread the word of this unknown threat and maybe have someone else take over the task of hunting.

That all sounds crazy, right? Well it's crazy how good this film is... especially considering that it makes some decisions I ordinarily think are bad ones in horror.

It shows the "monster" early, completely and throughout, for example. But this only serves to put us right there with the crew, jaws dropping and hearts pounding (and mine literally was) with every inconceivable encounter.


And it uses CGI, which shouldn't come as a surprise of course, but the way it's used sits so comfortably next to everything else that you just buy into it. I felt like a fool not being able to watch a CGI troll kill a CGI sheep onscreen... but it's just so bloody believable.

The acting is so natural, full of little moments that read as simple and real, so whether they were written that way or were an actor's choice, it doesn't really matter, both deserve credit.

Another clever touch is the inclusion of aspects already part of the stunning Norwegian landscape, such as electricity pylons; weaved into the narrative as if put there on purpose (as electric fences to deter trolls, obviously).

The use of the "already-existing" applies elsewhere, too.

Trolls have been present in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore dating back to 1276(!). In Trollhunter we have the beautiful juxtaposition of the amused disbelief of people who grew up reading fairy stories about these beings, next to Hans and others delivering cold hard facts about them. We learn gestation periods, life spans, why/how UV light harms them and whether the Tusseladd breed of troll is born with three heads or not (they aren't, and technically they aren't heads...). 

It's just a perfect narrative device, bringing these beings to life and making them legitimately scary in a more intellectual way than rewriting the mythology and doing something basic like attempting to give them a scary appearance.

Despite its fantastical subject matter, Trollhunter brings and successfully maintains an escalating sense of things getting worse. It opens with text explaining that this is literally a "found footage" film, so we know ultimately the kids at least go missing, if not worse. With this as a starting point it's just a matter of sitting and watching, wondering exactly how.

The tension is where this film gets you. As the pace gains momentum in perfectly timed increments, the trolls get bigger, the destruction increases and the hunter commenting on something being a "bad sign" gets more frequent.

The last big sequence actually made me flinch and exclaim out loud more than once. I cannot remember the last time a horror film did that! There's also a shot towards the very end that I found breathtaking.

For anyone put off by subtitles: don't be. I'm embarrassed to admit, sometimes I tell myself I'm just not in the mood... but bear in mind that because your focus has to be unrelenting on a film where you must read the dialogue, it really pays off. No glancing at social media, no multi-tasking; you have to pay attention! I had forgotten how much it actually adds to the overall enjoyment and vested interest in the movie.

There's thought and care with this film, right down to the very last word and the final song over the end credits. You should definitely check it out, if you haven't already done so!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, I've seen it a couple of times and it's one of my favourites too! Well written review. I think the use of CGI and showing the monster early can only be favourably compared to Ghostbusters - it has the same liveliness to it that means you can enjoy the film so much you're not driven to keep watching to find out what It is.