The Trollhunter (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Trollhunter (2011)

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Dry humor is something of an acquired taste because so few do it well.  The Brits have it down pretty handily, producing comedians like Steve Coogan who can take the awkwardness of a situation and produce droll bellyaches with precise observations.  Transferring that dryness into the mockumentary format can also be done splendidly -observe any of Christopher Guest's films (Best In Show, This Is Spinal Tap) to see the wit in action.

The advertising and posters for The Troll Hunter, the Norway mockumentary from director and writer André Øvredal, self-proclaim the film to be the most important and insightful documentary ever made.  That's worth a casual grin, especially since the subject is hunting fantasy creatures, but the film itself is so dry that it devolves into it becomes corrosive to watch before attaining the essence of static and white noise.

Not in the bleating, beating you over the head sense that Michael Bay likes to traffic in.  But a film that started and stopped at it's idea phase and never got to the point of writing actual jokes.  Is it funny that the hunter (Otto Jespersen) has to sleep under tanning lights to get his job done?  Not inherently, and cutting to a bottle of suntan lotion while he talks about it doesn't really highlight the joke, just the situation.

The Troll Hunter is a purposeless, meandering film filled with zero personality and all the flat humor previously described.  Our protagonists (Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen and Johanna Mørck) are students making a documentary about the supposed bear poaching that is going on in the Norwegian wilds.  Off they go, shaky camera and stylish lenses in hand, hoping to catch a break and discover the culprit behind the piles of bear corpses coming up everywhere.

Compounding the film's many issues is the cameraman's perplexing decision to focus on the creatures only briefly, save for the climax, almost as though he's scared to allow the camera to linger and actually document the trolls.

They find a hunter, follow him around as he does his job and listen to him complain about his work for the TSS (Troll Secret Service).  Perhaps there's a subtler element of satire to these confessions that would make sense to a local Norwegian, but it comes off as fairly routine complaints about how government work is less than fulfilling.  It also wouldn't be so bad if anyone in the film possessed a modicum of personality.

I wrote down the names of the students but I'll be damned if I can remember one thing about them other than their hair colors.  This is particularly sad in the case of the presenter, who wants to go into broadcasting and has all the charisma of a slumming weatherman.  The camera crew, in true mockumentary format, just cannot keep the camera still at all.  That's all well and good when they're running from danger, but when the task is to stand in place and film one other person standing in place it transcends stylistic affect and becomes just plain annoying.

Tripling the issues are the fact that these people are really dumb.  The opening sequence where the trolls are first introduced involves them screaming "What's going on?" to each other for a solid ten minutes while we can clearly see the giant lumbering monstrosity through the trees.  Look, when a grizzled mountain-man tells you to run and a near-Lovecraftian horror is not far behind these sorts of questions answer themselves.  Even taken as a comedy experience of mocking these people it is too dumb since there is no joy or fun to be had.

No but his films have personality and anger. This one has sunscreen.

The only saving grace of the entire film lies in the confrontations with the trolls.  The hunter has to fight them using a combination of old-fashioned poisoning via syringe, baits with sheep, and a high powered UV light that can turn them to stone since they're afraid of sunlight.  There's more potential for satire on the growing secular world since they can smell Christians (and one of the students still harbors secret faith) but the opportunity is lost in a sea of scatological moments where they hide his smell under troll gunk.

It's fitting the film is called The Troll Hunter and not The Trolls since we spend most of our time with the bearded master.  But our guides are so flat, the hunter so uninvolved and the jokes so strained that it's hard to muster up the necessary excitement to laugh, let alone keep attention focused on the screen.

Earlier this year there was a beautiful movie called Monsters that used a strained but well-utilized metaphor of scared and misunderstood creatures so gorgeous in their rendering it placed the protagonists tentative feelings about life in sharp focus.  There's no similar skill or point to be made here, just a joke about a childhood sketch that someone brought to life with an overblown budget and very few rewrites.  It's no wonder the hunter is so grumpy, I'd want to shoot myself out of boredom if this is crew I kept around me every day.

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The Troll Hunter (2011)

Written and directed by André Øvredal.
Starring Otto Jespersen.

Posted by Andrew

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