Movie review: Trollhunter

A couple of nights ago, I found a movie on Netflix called Trollhunter, a Norwegian horror film written and directed by André Øvredal. Unless you’re a foreign-film buff or a horror nut, you probably haven’t heard of this movie, but its worth watching, even if it wears thin in a few spots. There’s something about hearing a story with a non-English, European sensibility that is both intriguing and elusive. I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly what it is ever since I read “The Bear of Owl Island” by Norwegian writer Jon Bing, available in Tales from the Planet Earth, edited by Frederik Pohl. (I don’t speak or read Norwegian. The movie has subtitles and Bing wrote “The Bear of Owl Island” in English, but I digress…)

Theatrical release poster

Trollhunter does for the troll what so many (too many?) movies have done for vampires, explaining the ins and outs of the mythos, the reasons behind it, all packaged up in a found-film format that, as I alluded to above, could have benefitted from some more editing. The unknown actors doing their own hand-held camera work add to the gritty sense of realism. I should say that most of the actors are unknown, but apparently Norwegian film goers will recognize Otto Jespersen as Hans. He’s a comedian of some note in that country, and while he doesn’t go for out-and-out laughs, the entire film has a sardonic sense of humor.

The performances by the rest of the cast are convincing, especially Glenn Erland Tosterud as Thomas, who stands in for us–the everyperson–in this movie as a witness to the unraveling of reality as we know it. And yet, like Thomas, we want to know more, in part because we are sucked down the rabbit hole with Hans. And find out more, we do–about Ringelfinches, Mountain Kings, and the dreaded, 200-foot-tall Jötnar. Why are these creatures breaking out of their territories and wreaking havoc on the countryside? That is Hans’s job to find out, sent by Norway’s Troll Security Service.

And don’t think that because it wasn’t backed by a Hollywood studio that filmmakers can’t deliver visually. The troll effects are frighteningly realistic, and Øvredal strikes a Spielbergian Jaws-like balance of showing you just enough to be satisfied, but actually scaring you with what you don’t see. If you enjoyed found-film horror flicks like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Quarantine, then add Trollhunter to your Netflix queue.

Written and directed by André Øvredal; cinematography by Hallvard Bræin; edited by Per Erik Eriksen; produced by John M. Jacobsen and Sveinung Golimo. Running time 103 minutes.

STARRING: Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg, and Glenn Erland Tosterud.

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