Two Cents: Getting Frosty with TROLLHUNTER

 

Two Cents
Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

“TROOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLL!”

Trollhunter first entered public consciousness with that eminently meme-able trailer moment, but the Norwegian found footage horror/fantasy film soon attracted a strong following among genre fans and ongoing word of an American remake.

It also seemed to promise great things for first-time writer/director André Øvredal, promise that was finally met with his follow-up, The Autopsy of Jane Doe. That film, which blew the damn roof off the damn joint at Fantastic Fest this year, stars Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as morticians who encounter some very, very bad things when they star dissecting a mysterious new cadaver. The film is newly available in theaters and on VOD this week, and our own Jon Partridge had some very nice things to say about it.

And maybe we’ll feature Jane Doe as a title in the future, but this week, we are hunkering down in the ice and snow with the trolls of Norway. Found footage films have come a long way since The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity proved you could make a whole lot of something out of a whole lot of nothing, and Øvredal packs his film with a wide variety of impressive varmints to terrorize the hapless film crew.

What do you folks think? Is Trollhunter here to stay or is this another mockumentary that is better left on ice?

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

Too hot to handle, too cold to hold! We know it’s the holidays and everyone’s busy with family and friends, so no heady epics or character studies this week – just celebrate New Year’s with us by watching the Ghostbusters movie everyone dumped on before the remake took its place, Ghostbusters II!

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

Our Guests

Trey Lawson: I don’t much care for found-footage films, but Trollhunter is one of the best examples of the format I’ve seen. Of course, it probably doesn’t hurt that I like giant monster movies a lot. The “young people making a student film” premise is a pretty standard found-footage trope, but Trollhunter makes the most of it. At its best, the characters (especially Hans the trollhunter, played by Otto Jespersen) infuse the film with a dry, slightly dark sense of humor. However, the film never really makes the premise itself the butt of the joke. While it references various traditional troll-related folk tales and imagery, Trollhunter never stoops to winking at the audience or engaging in parody. The effects are very good, especially considering the relatively low budget, and the film does a great job of building suspense before finally revealing the trolls in full. As with most found-footage films, the pacing is pretty slow, with lots and lots of shaky cam running through woods, riding in cars, etc. On the one hand, this lends “authenticity” to its mockumentary premise. However, it makes the film feel even longer than it really is, and makes me wish that Kalle the cameraman had maybe turned off the camera more often, especially when nothing important was happening. Alas, this is more a flaw in the format than in this film specifically, and Trollhunter manages its limitations better than many other found-footage films. Generically complex, Trollhunter isn’t quite horror. But its blending of dark fantasy/folklore with mundane bureaucracy is uniquely entertaining. (@T_Lawson)

Brendan Agnew: I tend to run hot or cold on the found footage game, but applying the Ghostbusters “Warrior against the supernatural reframed as a riff on pest conttol” gimmick to monsters from Norse mythology? That’s a good way to get my attention.

Trollhunter does a lot with a very little, when you step back and take stock of what the film is working with. There’s not much characterization of the three film student leads Johanna, Alle, and Tomas, apart from the found footage stock of “plucky and devoted to their filming to the point where they’ll never commit the sin of just dropping the camera,” but the film sketches in solid mini-arcs concerning someone’s faith or someone else’s health that are set up and pay off very functionally. And in terms of introducing the audience to both Hans the titular Trollhunter and his work, they and the film perform admirably.

Even if you have little interest in fantasy or found footage, Hans (played with the perfect mix of nonchalance and job weariness by Otto Jespersen) is compelling enough to make the film worth a look. Through him, the film unspools neat tidbits concerning the reasoning behind elements of troll mythology, shows the toll this kind of work would take on a person, and implements his gear to ratchet up the scale of the creatures themselves – all within the margins.

And yes, the trolls themselves are wicked cool as well. (@BLCAgnew)

The Team

Justin: A few years back, someone recommended that I watch Trollhunter. Based on the name and the fact that the box cover featured a little more than a giant troll leg, I expected a nonsensical cheese fest. But I obliged, as schlock can sometimes be a wonderful thing.

Much to my surprise, the film was actually fantastic. The premise, of course, features a innate cheese factor; and, moreover, there is certainly much in the way of fantastical elements and offbeat, day humor. However, the film sucks you in and helps you suspend disbelief enough to buy into the fun of being alongside the main characters while they’re chasing trolls with a crazy old man.

I love the aspect of the film’s lore that builds upon the idea that trolls can smell the blood of Christians. Despite being a believer myself, I don’t think a few trolls roaming this Earth eating up Christians would be a wholly awful thing (then again, that may create an even greater martyr complex in some of us).

In short, it’s a great time and it’s on Netflix. So watch it. Enjoy it. And, don’t be turned off by the fact that its a found footage style film, because it’s certainly one of the better made ones out there. (@thepaintedman)

Brendan: My two big bugaboos with found footage are: the deathly slow-pace as you watch morons futz around for 50-60% of the movie waiting for anything to happen, and the way every found footage film contrives to keep the camera shaking and twisting so when you do finally, FINALLY, get to whatever supernatural occurrence inspired you to buy a ticket in the first fucking place, it exists for a couple of frames and then the camera goes back to shaking into monotonous digital blurs.

Trollhunter has the found footage aesthetic and framework, but write/director André Øvredal ably skips over any such pitfalls. While the kids filming the trolls are as bland as any other bunch of soon-to-shredded meat in this sort of fare, they are never actively annoying and the film moves along at a steady clip, constantly adding new wrinkles to the mythology of trolls and the process of hunting and disposing of them. It’s fun, it’s well-thought out, and the film has a terrific streak of dark humor running through it.

And when it comes time for the genre mayhem, the found footage aesthetic doesn’t stop Øvredal from delivering the goods. The trolls are awesome, fantastic feats of design and execution that are a tremendous relief from Hollywood’s stock of endlessly disposable vaginas full of teeth that Abrams et. al. stick into every monster film. The trolls are awe-inspiring, terrifying, and loaded with personality even in the brief glimpses we get of them.

So, yeah, put me down as one who was skeptical going in but made a full conversion to Team Trollhunter. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin:For a long time, Trollhunter was on my Top 10 list for 2011 (it eventually got edged out as I caught up on more movies from that year). Mixing Norwegian mythology, clever storytelling, genuine suspense, and rarely used but incredibly awesome creatures, it’s a concoction that works both as solid entertainment and a cool window into Norway (albeit a fictional one).

The film cleverly takes troll mythology and applies layers of “fact” and “fiction” to it with modern sensibilities, much in the way many other movies have done for vampires. In one humorous instance, Hans (the hunter of the title) is unsure if trolls, who can smell the blood of Christians, would be able to sniff out a Muslim.

Director Øvredal uses lots of tricks of the trade – night vision, roaring sound design, and awe-inspiring CGI creature effects – to sell the reality of his subjects, and it works marvelously. The last 25 minutes or so go into full-tilt excitement, with an unbelievably tense scene in which the team gets stuck in a cave with a pack of lethal “Mountain Kings”, and a standoff with a roaring 200-foot Jötun (frost giant). As wonderful as this movie is at home, I’d love to see it on a huge theater screen.(@VforVashaw)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

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the author

Brendan Foley lives in Massachusetts, where he has made a habit out of not knowing what he's doing. He'd like to make a career out of it. You can follow his ramblings on Twitter: @TheTrueBrendanF, and his ramblinger ramblings on Tumblr. Three years from now, it will be revealed that he was dead the entire time.