Troll Hunter is just one in a long line of “found footage” films purporting to be unedited footage showing unbelievable events in the style of a home movie or documentary. The Blair Witch Project primarily influenced what we know as the modern version of the trend; that in-camera, almost casual style which, with each successive film, tries to find new ways to surprise and intrigue the audience (with predictably varied results).
While Troll Hunter may follow the same basic path as other similar films (the basic story beats and so forth), it has a lot to it which makes it stand out from the crowd. It works primarily because it finds a perfect middle ground by taking itself seriously enough so that we genuinely invest in what’s happening and the characters it’s happening to, but not so much that the sense of fun is lacking.
We follow three college documentary makers who are spying on and following a mysterious hunter in the mountains of Norway, trying to find out where he goes during the night and why he’s acting so mysteriously. While following the man one night they stumble on what his true profession is: troll hunter.
Bringing together that Blair Witch style of shaky cam found footage (only this time a lot better quality cameras) with legitimately impressive special effects, the film is an absolute ton of fun, not just in the attack/chase scenes involving the trolls themselves but also in how the film plays around with conventions and audience expectation. Importantly It doesn’t treat the audience like idiots.
Like I said the film both takes itself seriously and makes fun of itself at the same time. For instance, as we delve deeper into the real story that’s been covered up by the government (of course…) we find out that the trolls are treated just like any other animals, with the titular troll hunter having to fill out forms about size, shape, age (etc.) whenever he kills one. This gives the film a great sense of believability while at the same time allowing us to snigger at the preposterousness of it all.
Both straight faced but with its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek, Troll Hunter takes what is now a conventional style of found footage filmmaking and puts a unique stamp on it. Building towards a genuinely awe-inspiring finale which (particularly because of the wonderful special effects) would put most Hollywood monster movies to shame, the film left me both thoroughly entertained and, for a time at least, convinced that these trolls really could exist! One of the best examples of this type of film so far.