A Mythical Menace, by Matt Warren
Every culture worth its Wikipedia page tends to be rooted in its own unique mythology—creation stories populated by all kinds of fantastical, mischievous creatures whose weird behavior is what ancient people used to use to explain the unexplainable. But the modern world doesn’t have a lot of room left for this kind of magic. Centuries of science and technology have combined to make superstition and folklore pretty much irrelevant. And good riddance. Who wants to live in a world where something as capricious as ogre hygiene determines the availability of natural resources? If, for example, it’s revealed that coal is, in fact, fairy poop, then what happens if the fairies suddenly all decide to become vegetarian? The entire economy of West Virginia would collapse into charred, smoking rubble.
Mythology and folklore have been replaced by urban legends and internet memes. Who needs Zeus when you have keyboard cat? Instead of Bloody Mary, we have 2 Girls 1 Cup. We don’t need use our imaginations anymore to invent new ways to feel besieged and powerless in a terrifying, inexplicable world. We can just Google that shit.
For example, it would be absurd to believe that the modern-day Norwegian countryside is secretly overrun by thousands of enormous, terrifying trolls. Such a cover-up would necessitate the full involvement of the duplicitous Norwegian government. Furthermore, such a laughable scenario would require the services of an aging, world-weary “troll hunter” to help locate and exterminate these allegedly nonexistent creatures. Only the stupidest idiot in all of East Moronsville would think that such a far-fetched plan would actually work.
But let’s say “Troll Hunter” business is legit. What would it be like? It’d probably be a lot like being one of those grizzled fucks on “Deadliest Catch” or “Ice Road Truckers.” It would be hard, unglamorous work. There’d be lots of malfunctioning equipment and annoying paperwork to deal with. Your boss from the Norwegian department of fish and game would be an insufferable prig. Worst of all, it’d be hard to get laid, as you’d covered head-to-toe in scent-masking troll piss, which smells, I imagine, like a can of Axe body spray fucking a burlap bag full of queefs. Basically, it sucks. No money, groupies, no respect—just a lot of long, boring time spent driving around the picturesque rural Norway in your (admittedly bitchin’) troll-proof camper van, smoking cigarettes and looking for beasties to murder. It’ s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Troll Hunter, the debut film by director André Øvredal, stars hangdog actor Otto Jesperson as the titular Norwegian Game Authority employee Hans. Fed up and looking to get fired, Hans agrees to let a trio of nosy film students—Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), and Johanna (Johanna Morck)—follow him around on the job. In an endearingly casual tone, he shows them the tricks of the trade, explains how trolls works, and exposes the government conspiracy to keep the existence of trolls a secret from the unsuspecting Norse populace. Every twelve minutes or so, there’s a loud, frenetic troll battle, all captured via first-person shakycam.
It’s a fun, well-made film, full of droll Scandanavian humor and nifty visuals. I’ve never been to Norway, and I don’t know much about the country that isn’t related to either Ghaal or Count Grishnackh, but I assume that part of Norwegian lore is that the distinctive rock formations dotting the countryside are the remains of dead trollfolk. That’s the way it’s presented in the film, at least. Øvredal’s conceit is to take this fairy story literally, and the juxtaposition in between indigenous folklore and the cold logic of the modern world forms the backbone of what the film is working toward—a metaphor for how contemporary societies try at once to both disavow and preserve their primitive roots. Like all good genre films, Troll Hunter uses thrills and jokes and scares to get at the hear of something important. It’s essentially a Norwegian Pride movie. With farting trolls.
Troll Hunter reminded me of the kind of movie that used to appear on cable shows like TNT’s “Monstervision” way back in the mid-1990s. It seems almost pre-made for cult status. And as far as the found-footage horror movies go, its a lot more Cloverfield than The Blair Witch Project. The crisp photography and editing could’ve stood to be a little grungier, and the trolls themselves are a little bit of a missed opportunity. If ever there was an excuse for some cool-ass Hensonian Dark Crystal-style puppet motherfuckery, it was this, but no. The trolls appear to be entirely CGI, and the cartoon-y design of the creatures doesn’t always play effectively in ones and zeros.
But overall (Øverall?), Troll Hunter is a fun watch, anchored by a solid original concept and soulful lead performance. It’s also great to look at, showing off the grandeur of rural Norway in all its lush, cloud-enshrouded glory. You’d never guess the thing was basically one big troll toilet.