Welcome to back to Friday Nightmare Reviews, wherein I am coming back to you with the first review of 2020! That’s right, I am back after a nice break that consisted of getting ready for restarting another year of reviews and stories and other goodies that are coming in the very near future. So it wasn’t really a break at all but that is life as an online content creator. All that said, if I really break it down, I am doing this to share my favorite films and my love of horror stories with all of you lovely readers out there and that’s pretty awesome. In fact, last year, I got to share with a lot more of you lovely readers with 2019 being the most successful year of this website since it launched. I won’t get all sappy on you here but honestly, there’s nothing more exciting for a content creator than to connect with people and know they are coming along with you as you watch weird, wonderful, terrible and sometimes baffling movies. Thank you for making the journey so far that much more fun. And on that note, let’s watch a movie together where the characters are having anything but fun! But before that, let’s get a little bit of context under our belt and see if we can run with some hunters who are out to tangle with some pretty serious game.
Now when someone says the word troll to you, there’s probably one of very few things that comes to mind. These days, it’s not likely an image that you associate with the word so much as the concept. In fact, if you spend more than five minutes on the internet at all, you’re familiar with what we now think of as a troll. It doesn’t have a set image but it does have characteristics, specifically those of being an annoying jerk off looking to get under your skin by saying that one thing that will really piss you off. Thanks to modern day trolls, we have things like the block and report buttons for those people who will go out of their way to say anything to get that oh so coveted reaction out of you. Prior to the word being associated with generally being an asshole for sport, the image of trolls in North America was limited to those weird tanned, naked dolls that had a face that looked like you crossed a newborn with a sugar glider and created a wide eyed abomination against nature. Sure, they tried to fancy these things up with the jewels in their tummy and the shock of horrible synthetic hair in colors that you could see from space. I vaguely recall that these things were supposed to be lucky but other than adding another hideous tchotchke to my childhood collection, I can’t remember them bringing me much in the way of exceptional luck.
Aside from the aforementioned hideousness of these weird dolls, there wasn’t much to remark about trolls here on this side of the world. There certainly wasn’t really anything that scary about them other than their weird wrinkly faces and the dead doll eyes with those wide, unblinking unnatural irises. Especially at night when the light hits their horrible colored eyes at just the right angle. But for the moment, let’s ignore my night terrors of yesterday and focus on the terrors at hand. And trust me, I’ll take the hideous tanned alien nightmares over the trolls you see in this film any day.
Today’s film takes on the world of the Norwegian trolls of both the forest and the mountains varieties. Far from just being some weird little beastie that might help you build a snowman or something similarly wholesome, these motherfuckers will eat you if they don’t squish your sorry ass first. And they be big. Like the size of a decent sized apartment building level of large. And in this film, a small group of film students have the misfortune of finding themselves in the middle of the woods when these giants go marauding around, eating basically anything they can find, including their car. Turns out that the wilds of Norway has them some trolls and these kids just happen to get it on camera. Alas, when there are trolls, there are also problems, what with the aforementioned eating people and squishing property. So what does one’s country do when it has large cryptids wandering around eating tourists and livestock? They call in the expert in culling their numbers, who also happens to be the title character of the film The Trollhunter.
Released in 2010, this is a found footage film with a premise so simplistic, you could initially be forgiven for thinking that this is too sparse to make a whole movie out of it. Some minor details aside, I’ve basically already told you the plot. We get a few minor title cards telling us that what we are about to see was mysteriously submitted and the footage hasn’t been edited and after testing, everything appears to be authentic in standard found footage mood setting fashion. Immediately afterwards, we jump into the middle of the story in progress. I’ll say that this is one way that Norway has outdone a lot of found footage films from North America in that it basically explains absolutely nothing. There are no moments where characters tell their life story to the camera. There aren’t even any title cards or moments where characters conveniently forget the camera is rolling. We hit the ground running where a few students are setting up to film a bunch of hunters who are looking for what they believe is a bear that has been wandering into a community and might be responsible for killing local animals and people. The students interviewing the hunters are told that there is someone else lurking about and they believe him to be a poacher. It is established immediately that there are strict rules in these communities where hunting is concerned and the hunters have seen this mystery someone appear only after word got out that there was a bear on the loose. The young filmmakers set out to find and expose the supposed poacher, only to find out the hard way that he’s hunting something that they believed was a fairytale. When they are attacked, the mystery man, Hans, reluctantly takes the three under his wing and they begin to document his life as the only Trollhunter in Norway. The result has some incredibly stressful moments as they track the movement of trolls in different communities.
This movie shines mostly on Hans, played by Otto Jespersen, the only character we get to know much about throughout, and even that isn’t saying much. We get some minor background details about him and he talks about certain facets of his life but otherwise, he doesn’t reveal much about who he is or what brought him to where he is now. That makes it all the more delightful to watch him because he’s gruff, completely void of sentimental opinions (or so it seems) and gives off the air of someone who’s just kinda over it all. He’s never mean to the kids interviewing him, even though it’s clear that he’s not entirely okay with them being there initially and their attempt to get an interview out of him is nothing short of stalking. Even when they get him into some deep shit, he just kind of takes the attitude of The Dude and rolls with it, albeit with more of an implied eye roll and sigh. All of this makes him even more fun to watch because you never get the sense that Hans is particularly fond of his job. He’s the only person in charge of what amounts to troll conservation but he isn’t particularly well compensated or even appreciated for the job that he does. It’s particularly hilarious to watch because it mirrors the banalities of having a shitty day job but he’s hunting down trolls and filling out paperwork afterwards. And speaking of the trolls, let’s talk about how the movie handles these trolls.
Here is where a North American audience might feel a bit on the left out side because a lot of the things these characters deal with is stuff that is inherent to their culture and things that a Norwegian audience would have access to and probably grew up with. I will say that this isn’t a deal breaker on any level because in the interviewing of Hans, the filmmakers do the equivalent of “forget what you’ve seen in the movies” cliche to introduce what the rules of these trolls actually are. None of this is quite as hamfisted as that cliche would usually imply, however, and it does give us a sense of what these creatures are supposed to be in this film and even breaks down these monster cryptids into something that we can relate to. Hans explains the difference between the forest trolls and the mountain trolls and tells of what it means to have them around. He goes into how they aren’t very bright and they will eat basically anything, including people. Mostly, he seems to treat them with the annoyed air of one who is dealing with a frustrating family of raccoons that get into the garbage of a specific cul-de-sac and how he goes about trapping and exterminating them, when need arises for it. They even have a great scene where an expert talks about what happens when they exterminate a troll and why certain things happen. All of these moments are completely deadpan, making it all the funnier seeing this very serious man talk about trolls like they’re just some nuisance that needs to be contained and filling out paperwork every time he’s forced to put one down. This makes it all the more fun when we actually get to see these giants in action.
In yesteryear, the trolls would have likely been portrayed either Godzilla style with men in rubber suits kicking down paper cities or Sinbad style with stop motion clay figures. In this day and age, however, we have the magic of CGI and while there will always be people bitching about the lack of practical effects and how it looks fake and how it isn’t impressive because it’s used too often, these monsters are absolutely stunning in this film. This film really does create the illusion that these massive beasties are wandering around and the acting around what had to be a simulation is fantastically done. And because this is a found footage film, the images are never necessarily something you get to see super clear so it still feels authentic in a way that you wouldn’t get in another kind of movie. Another brilliant way that they made the creatures come alive was the use of night vision on the camera so that we could see finer details in the dark and allowed us to really get the sense of these creatures like they were real. The people who created these effects deserve all the cookies because this was genuinely seamless and combined with the acting, you never really question if these monsters are actually there. There is no part where you are pulled out of the story because it tricks the eye so well.
And with that, let’s finally talk about the acting. I have talked about Hans, because he’s fantastic, but the rest of the young cast is great too and funny enough is that they aren’t given a whole lot of dialogue to express themselves. The students act pretty natural and what they do say is pretty sparse. They ask questions as interviewers sometimes but no one ever has a real monologue style kind of talk to the camera to showcase what they’re thinking. Most of that is conveyed through their expressions and how they react to things. Because of this, you don’t get a whole lot of motivation from anyone on what they are doing and why, which can be a bit confusing at times. You never really get any real backstory on why the kids are filming what they are. They have some minor lines about being university students and one of them says something about Michael Moore but no one really has any lines that say that it’s his dream or it’s what his scholarship is riding on or anything like that. That said, they carry the film like this throughout the whole of the run time, reacting to what they learn and their discoveries are often our discoveries too.
What makes this even stronger is the fact that this film relies heavily on subtext and hints of things that are going on in the background. One minor conversation can give you clues as to what is happening in the communities and suddenly little things like sweeping shots of rocks or certain seemingly banal objects take on a whole new meaning. Added to all of these things is the fact that there is no background music in the movie at all. Without any music, you are reliant on the visual cues of both the landscape and the actors to fill in the blanks of all the things they want you to know and I will tell you right now, if you’re paying attention, you won’t be disappointed. This is definitely something you have to be aware of what they say but the pay off is so well accomplished that it just adds to the overall spell the movie has you in for the whole run time.
So I’m sure by now that it’s obvious that I am very very highly recommending this movie to you. If you’re the type that gets worried about subtitles, honestly, this isn’t going to be an issue. The dialogue is framed mostly in interview style so they are slow enough that you can read them without missing anything and, as I mentioned before, most of the talking is pretty short and sweet. The characters let the setting and the inferences do most of the leg work in getting the story across so it’s not like you’re attending Norwegian Folklore: The Book Movie! Also, the scenery is gorgeous. Seriously, Norway is beautiful and this film makes all the excuses to show off the visuals that make up the landscapes around them. If you couldn’t keep up with the subtitles, you could still very much enjoy getting a chance to see the beauty of the country as they roam from place to place. And I’ve mentioned it several times now but this movie is funny. It’s still got its more intense moments but that only makes the amusing bits even funnier. Think things along the lines of What We Do In The Shadows but without the wacky antics and played a whole lot more dead pan. Because you’ve got the whole cast committed to the seriousness of the project, it is that much more endearing, that much more realistic and that much more enjoyable to watch. You are doing yourself a complete disservice if you sleep on this one because it is fun, gorgeous and it might be the only thing to really put out of mind those horrible creepy dolls from our childhoods.
And with that, I say thank you so much for joining me again here on Friday Nightmare Reviews! If you want to continue to get your horror on, there’s plenty more to enjoy on the site. This coming Wednesday, we have the next installment of my February is for Love(craft) list and it’s an unexpected but good one! And as always, you can find my original fictional serial story, Hello Dolly, here every Monday. For those who love the reviews, enjoy the fiction or just like me for my lack of wit, you might wish to check out and possibly support my Patreon to get early access to everything listed and get a peek at things coming up in the next year. That said, all support and interest is welcome and I appreciate it all. Until next time, may you enjoy some gorgeous scenery, eat some excellent food and escape those troll bites!