There have been quite a few faux-documentary horror films coming down the river since The Blair Witch Project emerged in 1999 to terrify some punters and annoy others with its cinema verité handheld camera work, non-professional actors and improvised dialogue. My favourite in this sub-genre remains J.J.Abrams’ New York-crunching Cloverfield, but Trollhunter, directed and co-written by André Øvredal, is a very worthy entry in the field.
Trollhunter is purportedly assembled from found footage shot by a hapless and naive camera crew who become interested in a mysterious ranger who seems to be involved in a series of inexplicable bear killings in a remote part of Norway. They start to follow him in the hope of bagging an exclusive, and eventually find themselves on the trail of something rather more exotic and dangerous than a bear. The film evolves into a series of setpiece encounters with massive, and rather impressively rendered, folktale inspired monsters and if you came here for panicked running around and a rough shaky motion-sickness inducing camera style then you’re not going to be disappointed.
The film stands out from its antecedents mainly through its dour, deadpan humour which remains present even during its occasional moments of high tension. The trollhunter of the title turns out to be a reasonable man who’s become jaded through the unreasonable demands put on him by a shady government department, and one of the nice touches here is the inclusion of scenes showing him wearily filling in standard issue troll-slaying forms. The film is never really that scary (although the sequence in the wood leading up to the first troll sighting is pretty suspenseful) and it’s probably more successful as a cult comedy than as a horror movie. If anything, the trolls are too well-realised and used too frequently – one has a suspicion that the film would be more effective if the director had reined it in and relied more on sound effects and secondary evidence of the creatures. Still, it holds one’s attention throughout and stays true to its conceit and some of the Norwegian scenery is stunning.