Published at: Oct. 7, 2010, 9:23 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
Hell yes. In the waning final days of the mockumentary/horror subgenre, the only way to stay relevant and interesting in a post-CLOVERFIELD/post-REC era is to do something radically different. And that’s exactly what TROLLHUNTER does. Filmed in a stunningly beautiful part of Norway, this is the story of a group of college students who are filming a documentary on bear hunting season for a class, only to end up hot on the trail of what they believe to be a poacher. But while out in the woods late one night, following him on a hunt, they end up finding what he’s really after. Trolls. Big, hairy, disgusting, man eating, trolls.
The film plays around with the notion that trolls are living, breathing organisms with very real physiologies that conform both to the stories of legend as well as to the boundaries of science. This man - this Trollhunter - is a government employee keeping the population of trolls in check while keeping them secret and out of populated areas. Tired of the red tape and secrecy, he allows these kids to follow him in order to get the story out to the people. What follows is pure, unbridled, fantasy madness.
The special effects and creature design in this are pretty god damned spectacular. Rarely in this type of film do we get to look at the monster, and when we do, it tends only to be in fleeting glances. Not here. Here they let you see these creatures in all their glory, allowing you to delight in all the painstaking work it went into designing them. No two troll encounters are the same, as our band of filmmakers get a chance to see mountain and forest troll alike. Some are huge, others plain gargantuan. And the camera takes you up close and personal each time, wading through the muck and mire of their lairs, crouching in the woods behind rocks and trees trying to avoid being seen and of course running like a bitch when one spots them. The film spends a lot of time explaining the mythology, letting you dig in deep to the universe it exists in and really seems to be deeply in love with the creatures it is spending time playing with.
But it is still a found footage horror-mockumnetary, meaning that it falls into all the usual traps and tropes of those films, including problems with pacing, over explanatory exposition and the occasional bit of first person, shaky cam sprinting scenes. Fortunately, this being a camera crew, most of the cinematography is great. But as this sub-genre of films slowly runs out of steam, the only thing making this a noteworthy entry is the original subject, the mythology they craft and the top notch visuals they employ. To be perfectly honest, I would have loved if this had gone DISTRICT 9 and begun with the doc, only to have the hunter say “If you turn the camera off, I’ll show you what we’re after,” following the rest of what happens as more of a classic narrative. They had a great cast, camera crew and effects team – this could have transitioned beautifully and turned into one hell of a killer film without having to increase the budget one bit. It would have taken a restructuring of the script and nothing else. The story could have remained the same, because the story is solid.
Fortunately, not as many of these found footage films hit the mainstream as we critics end up seeing at festivals and on DVD, but you can begin to feel the wear and fatigue on the critic masses every time a film opens with “What you are about to see is footage sent to our studio blahditty-blahditty-blah…” It was a great concept for a while, but it really is wearing out its welcome. That said, TROLLHUNTER feels like one of the last good ones before the entire thing implodes upon itself; a badass romp through the woods with unconventional monsters making for a fun film that is well worth seeking out as soon as you are able.
Until next time friends,