TRUE/FALSE FILM FESTIVAL 2011
By Don Simpson | April 3, 2011
Director: André Øvredal
Writer: André Øvredal
Starring: Glenn Erland Tosterud, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Otto Jespersen
Writer-director André Øvredal provides us with the set-up: 283 hours of mysterious footage has been found. After extensive investigation, the footage is concluded to be authentic. (Cue rolling of eyes, it is one of those films…) Said footage was shot by a group of Norwegian university students who were working on a documentary story about bear poaching but stumbled upon something significantly larger…and smellier.
When we first meet the three co-eds — Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) and Johanna (Johanna Mørck) — they are tracking the movements of a suspicious woodsman named Hans (Otto Jespersen). They suspect that Hans is an evil bear poacher, but after following him into the woods one night they discover that Hans’ game is way bigger than an average bear.
Hans, exhausted from decades of troll hunting, does not have the energy to chase away the young filmmakers; instead he sees it as an opportunity to spill the beans, allowing the students to follow him while he provides them with priceless information concerning the mythology of trolls, the most effective ways to kill them, and how the Norwegian government has covered-up the troll problem.
This Norwegian found footage mockumentary comes from the same pseudo-verite, shaky-cam tradition of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project (Øvredal also pays homage to Jurassic Park), but it opts to delve deep into the fascinating “the truth is out there” underbelly of government conspiracies. Portraying Hans as an employee of the Troll Security Service with the thankless job of dutifully abiding by the mercy of an over-authoritative government bureaucrat (Hans Morten Hansen), Øvredal sarcastically comments on the relationship between the government and the life-risking, under-paid, blue collar labor force responsible for carrying out the government’s ridiculous demands on a daily basis. It is impossible not to have sympathy for Hans as he is repeatedly being used and abused by his government employer.
The Troll Hunter has the shocking audacity to take this entire premise seriously, and that is precisely why it succeeds. Unlike most found footage films, Øvredal has the wherewithal to stay true to the film’s first person perspective, never once falling back on establishing shots or relying upon footage that could have never been photographed by the protagonists. The found footage is obviously edited — whittled down from the purported 283 hours of source material — thus allowing for the pacing to be streamlined. It is also readily apparent that Øvredal concentrated on the quality of the special effects, making The Troll Hunter a surprisingly well-produced addition to the found footage genre.