PLOT: While making a film about a supposed bear poacher, three Norwegian college students happen upon an unexpected reality: that trolls exist, in many shapes and sizes. Not only that, but the government knows about it, and has a special sect - the Troll Security Service - set up to contain the trolls' activity, in order to prevent them from ever becoming public knowledge.
REVIEW: THE TROLL HUNTER is a clever 20-minute short film stretched uneasily into an 103 minute feature. Director Andre Ovredal has a cute little idea that probably would have been better suited to a shorter form than a full-length narrative; it's a little too plodding and light-weight to justify its overlong running time. Still, it's an agreeable entertainment, and fans of the "found footage" subgenre will enjoy it.
The movie starts off with one of those "this footage is authentic and has been pieced together" bits; it's playing the mockumentary angle, as we follow a small group of college students who search for a mysterious man who is hunting bears illegally. Or so they think. Sooner rather than later, they discover the man (played with stoic seriousness by Otto Jespersen) is a government employee whose job it is to make sure trolls stick to their boundaries and stay out of the public eye. Of course the students are skeptical for a while, but after a little bit of snooping, they discover the man isn't off his rocker, but telling the truth.
They've caught the Troll Hunter on a good day too: he's sick of his job (no benefits, have to deal with bureaucrats) and has no problem revealing all to them. Soon enough they're going on the hunt with the man for trolls who are acting up and not sticking to their designated territories, and they are witness to a few amazing sights... as well as the determination of the government to keep the whole situation quiet.
THE TROLL HUNTER has fun with a lot of small details regarding the trolls, such as their strengths and weaknesses (they explode or turn to rock when confronted with sunlight; they can sniff out, and have a special taste for, Christians); the Troll Hunter himself, too, is amusing, as he explains the myriad details of troll life in a straight-faced way. The trolls, when we actually see them, are in turns funny and scary. In terms of bringing them to the screen, Ovredal has managed to get the most bang out of this buck. There's no doubt that what the director has done in some sequences is seriously impressive. While I won't go as far as to say that the visual effects are perfect, they're damn good, and the trolls are woven fairly seamlessly into the footage. The movie isn't wall-to-wall with the beasts, however, so Ovredal picks his spots, focusing on four scenes in which to drop his monsters and let them roam. When they're on screen, it's a fun ride.
But there's only so many trolls to go around, and when we aren't in the company of them, the movie wears thin. Almost all of the scenes involving the Troll Hunter, likable as he is, revolve around him explaining the odd species to the students. At first it's fun, after a while it grows tiresome. Once we know the trolls exist, it's a bit redundant to keep explaining them and their habits to us. Alas, Ovredal can only do so much when the trolls are absent, so we sit and wait. While the movie delivers a few chuckles, it becomes obvious that it should be funnier; that after we're in on the joke, so to speak, we should be laughing along with the movie, not studying up on our troll expertise. The students themselves are never given any real personality (other than their youthful enthusiasm and spirit), so they never exactly develop into likable characters; they're only our gateway into the troll world.
The main problem, for lack of a better word, with THE TROLL HUNTER is that it's a trifle. An amusing idea that works for about a half an hour but soon declares it's not ready for prime-time. While the sequences with the trolls are always enjoyable, the movie itself is obviously a one-joke prospect; a Youtube short stretched beyond sustainability. I don't begrudge Ovredal's gumption or ingenuity when it comes to the effects and action sequences, but his storytelling skills leave a little to be desired. THE TROLL HUNTER is either not serious enough or not funny enough; it's too silly to be taken seriously, yet it lacks the comedic skills to be a sufficient satire. Either way, THE TROLL HUNTER never convinces that it should be a full-length feature.
I look forward to seeing what else Ovredal has up his sleeve. THE TROLL HUNTER is a great test run, but it's not the home run he might be capable of hitting. Still, that's not to say you shouldn't give this a curious peek, if only to see a few of those trolls for yourself.