Wednesday, October 10, 2012

30 Days of Nightmares #14: TROLL HUNTER (2010)

The Story: The BLAIR WITCH of troll movies...

Expectations: Honestly, I didn't expect much.  The movie is called TROLL HUNTER and trolls don't usually fare well in film.  John Carl Buechler's TROLL (1986) is a repugnant but oddly charming little movie, and apparently some people have found something of value in TROLL II (1990), even though it is reputedly the worst movie ever made... but, for the most part, filmmakers steer clear of this mythical monster.   Making a movie about trolls is sort of like making a movie about Bigfoot or Nessie.  It's nearly impossible to convince audiences to take the threat seriously, so at best the film will be an entertaining farce.  I'm not usually a fan of farcical horror movies, so I probably would have stayed away from this film entirely... were it not for the recommendation of a friend who gave it unusually high marks.  My curiosity got the better of me.

Reaction: For the first half hour of this film, I was very underwhelmed.  As far as I could tell, it really was the BLAIR WITCH of troll movies: a bunch of annoying college students with a camera, chasing a strange story into all the wrong places.  I just watched QUARANTINE a few days ago, so my tolerance for shaky-cam was low and I almost turned this movie off.  Then the titular character, a gruff Norwegian who secretly hunts trolls for the government, opened up to the documentarians and TROLL HUNTER took an interesting turn.

The hunter began by explaining the "truth" about mythical trolls.  This is sort of like the scene in every vampire movie where the designated "expert" explains the myth/rules for that particular film... Vampires can regenerate, but they can't turn into bats, etc. etc. etc.  The filmmaker's goal is usually to create a system of internal logic so that the threat will seem as believable as possible.  This is necessary in vampire movies because there have been so many different variations on the vampire myth and none of them agree on the definition of a vampire.  As a result, filmmakers feel free to adapt the monster to their own particularly interests.  By contrast, since very few movies have been made about trolls (and even fewer that demonstrate any kind of internal logic), so the makers of TROLL HUNTER went straight to the original source -- old Norse mythology and Scandanavian folktales -- and embraced everything, no matter how ludicrous.

There's an enchanting quality about a film that wholeheartedly embraces absurdity without turning into a complete farce.  The actors in TROLL HUNTER play their scenes completely straight, turning this into a black comedy of epic proportions.  Let me give you an example... Early in the film, the troll hunter asks if any of the college students are Christians.  Trolls, apparently, love the taste of Chrisitian blood, and they can smell it a mile away.   The kids all insist that they are all atheists.  Later, when the film crew gets trapped in a cave with a whole family of huge, farting trolls, one of the characters has a panic attack.  On the verge of a nervous breakdown, he confesses, "I'm a Christian!"  A few scenes later, the dead crew member is replaced by a Muslim.... If this sort of thing amuses you, then you'll probably be able to appreciate this film for what it is.  Either way, the landscapes and the visual effects are amazing.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: Since trolls hunt by smell, troll hunters must slather their bodies with a substance that's reputedly made up of "all the stuff you can squeeze out of a troll's body"... 

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