The Blair Witch Project kicked off the found footage filming style, but in fact was quite a terrifying starting point for me. It wasn’t until Cloverfield that my fondness for found footage films took off and Trollhunter all but reinforces this feeling.
Trollhunter combines the wonderful world of fantasy with this found-footage style of shooting to create a film that plays on the myths surrounding trolls. And in a true ode to The Blair Witch Project, the film opens with three amateur filmmakers on a hunt.
Although The Blair Witch Project takes on a very different stance, the three Norwegian filmmakers are on the hunt for a mysterious bear poacher, who has angered many of the local hunters. Trollhunter immediately has that authentic feel with the amateur camerawork and the crew’s seemingly mismatched approach to the filming of their documentary.
Before the trio are introduced, the film beckons an ominous message as it professes the forthcoming footage is ‘all real’, but what isn’t ominous is the opening 10 minutes as the crew discuss the aforementioned bear poacher. Following the documentary exposé style, they interview a select number of bear hunters and a member of the Norwegian Wildlife Board, discussing their anger towards this possible ‘poacher’.
As you’re watching this, you begin to wonder where this ‘Troll Hunter’ element comes into it as the trio of amateur filmmakers – continuing this exposé fashion – tail the mysterious bear poacher, Hans. (Otto Jespersen)
André Øvredal manages to capture the beauty of the Norwegian countryside as Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) tries to keep the sound editor Johanna (Johanna Mørck) and camera operator Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) motivated in their pursuit of an ever-elusive interview with Hans. If anything the beauty of Norway and the intriguing characters of Hans keeps the film ticking over for the opening 20 or so minutes.
This is until Hans is trailed to an abandoned country trail and seemingly evades the group. Hearing a low-grumble of sorts over the boom, the trio investigate the woods to be met by Hans screaming “Troll!” as he runs past them.
What worked really well with The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield were the out-of-focus framings and the snapshots of the monster and/or the surrounding area, instilling that tense feeling.
Trollhunter adapts this perfectly when focusing on the trolls throughout the film, whether trying to capture the sheer size of a troll, or build that sense of anticipation for the reveal of a different troll. Øvredal manages to incorporate this change of story perfectly as a very-weary looking Hans decides to spill the beans about him working for a covert operation called the Troll Security Service.
The amateur camera crew decide to join Hans on his journey, deciding that a documentary about Trolls would be more interesting than a bear poacher (Obviously). Øvredal managed to bring these fictitious characters to life excellently, whilst incorporating the mythology surrounding trolls, such as the smelling of a Christian blood. But what was astonishing was that he could bring this intriguing story to life on a relatively small-scale budget.
Øvredal manages to maintain this amazement throughout the story and keeps it interesting for the 100-minute runtime, with fresh approaches and always building to the finale. I think Trollhunter benefits most from the story, as rather than having Hans go around keeping the trolls in check, he has an empathic approach towards the beasts and wants to discover what’s driving them out their own territories.
Again, this is all down on a relatively small budget and maintains a believable stance on the existence of trolls (as believable as it could be of course) and keeping the cast a small close-knit team saves the confusion, especially when it comes the handling of this ‘found-footage’ style of filmmaking.
As the Danish filmmaking scene has produced one of my favourite actors in Mads Mikkelsen and directors in Nicholas Winding Refn, I’ve never been eexposed to the rest of Scandinavian filmmaking as a whole. However, Trollhunter has shown that this trend of superb filmmaking hasn’t just settled in Denmark but the rest of Scandinavia with Øvredal creating one of the better monster films in recent memory.