The found footage film has been all around the indie horror scene for some time, but few entries (in fact, probably just Cloverfield) can match the spectacle of Trollhunter, the Norwegian import that puts us in the car with a legitimate (you guessed it) troll hunter. The pitch is the same one we've heard before - these tapes were found, they're thought to be authentic - but there's little else about Trollhunter (save the ending) that requires it to follow the found footage formula.
Unlike films such as The Blair Witch Project or The Last Exorcism, I often found myself forgetting that the characters were the ones controlling what I saw on screen in this film. Much of this is due to the scale of the film, because we don't relate to people seeing gigantic hairy creatures with the same concern that we feel about kids hunting witches or dealing with a possessed girl. There's certainly a detachment from reality that comes when we see the trolls that inhabit this film, but the film plugs forward with its idea anyway. And I'm pretty grateful for that.
The film (and the film crew within it) follows the title character Hans, played by Otto Jespersen, on his journey to keep Norway safe from the many types of trolls - each of which are violent and crave the blood of Christians. His antics - which include actual real life scape-goats, the spreading of "troll stench" on peoples' groins, and the use of many ultraviolet light guns that seem like leftovers from a ghetto-er version of District 9 - are quite entertaining, and would make one heckuva fake reality TV show, but that's not the point of Trollhunter. The point is that Hans is sick of working for the government's TSS (Troll Security Service) and is willing to blow the lid on troll culture to a student camera crew.
The result is a film that, like the best b-movies, dares us to believe in the reality that it provides. This troll hunter's sidekicks begin the film scoffing at the idea of trolls, and their opinion certainly goes along with the audience's perception. I'd guess that many people will scoff at the idea of a film about giant trolls, but this film is all about the buy-in. The filmmakers and cast go to great lengths to make what we're seeing seem realistic, and I felt like their efforts paid off: once we accept the idea that these characters are in real danger from trolls, the film becomes a full-scale thrill ride. Much credit belongs to the film's special effects, as the creatures we're introduced to - from the tri-headed "tosserlad" to the mammoth "jotner" - look surprisingly realistic. Well, realistic as far as giant trolls go, that is. I'm trying to say they don't look blatantly CGI fake, I guess. (And if you're struggling with the idea of trolls, I'm slightly convinced that the rules for dealing with them are like 99% the same as the rules for vampires...so just pretend they're giant cranky vampires.)
The trolls are probably the best reason to see this movie - they should certainly please any lover of giant monster cinema - but the film has a lot of other things going for it too. The acting is more than adequate, with Jespersen giving a wonderfully dry performance as Hans and the rest of the cast filling the side roles well. The film also moves at a brisk pace and features several worthy action scenes, which are probably topped by the scene in which an armored Hans takes a stand on a bridge with mixed results. A lot of the action comes with some sarcastic wit and dark humor too, which only adds to the film's charm.
As one of those giant monster lovin' dudes I speak of, I expected Trollhunter to thrill me a bit - and I got what I expected. This is a fun monster movie that's professionally written and executed. I was a little put off by the found footage aspect of the film being kind of an afterthought at times, but I think that's a testament to just how impressive the film's acting and effects are. Trollhunter isn't packed with scares, but it's got plenty of thrills and should provide solid entertainment for anyone who's willing to consider some goofy looking trolls that don't have neon colored hair. This is a fun bit of monster action that's just waiting for you and your friends' howling approval.