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TROLLHUNTER (2011) (**1/2)

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This Norwegian fantasy thriller is Norwegian at its core and that is the best thing about it. On its surface, the film takes from found footage pictures such as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. A group of students set out to make a film and get more than they wished for. But in this case there aren't witches, but trolls.

The students originally set out to chronicle bear poaching. They follow the gruff mountain man Hans (Otto Jespersen), whose Land Rover looks like it's had a few run ins with some big "bears." But the filmmakers find out quickly that Hans isn't after bears, but trolls. He's part of a secret government agency set out to keep the existence of the giant creatures secret. With incidents getting deadlier and more frequent, he decides to bring the students along with him to get the truth out.

When I say this film is Norwegian at its core I mean that its mythology is Norwegian. The plot borrows from mythology we know like trolls being able to smell the blood of a Christian men and the fact that sunlight turns trolls to stone. But it expands on those myths with modern weapons and science. Hans uses UV guns to make the trolls explode. The reason they turn to stone, we are told, because sunlight makes their bodies calcify. We discover all sorts of trolls such as Tosserlads, Ringlefinchs and Jotnars.

Writer/director Andre Ovredal mines a great deal of interest from his original world. Hans tells the students that they have to rub foul-smelling troll stench on their clothes in order to come along with him. This little fact provides great humor when a secret Christian starts feverishly covering himself with the stuff. The excuses that the government comes up with for troll attacks make swamp gas and weather balloons seem way more plausible.

It's taken me this long to even mention the names of the students, because they are part of the film's chief problem. They are just there to serve the plot. Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) is the nerdy interviewer. Johanna (Johanna Morck) is the perpetually scared-face sound recorder. Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) is the guy behind the camera. That's about it. Hans is by far the most interesting, but he is one dimensional at best. He's a superhero, like if Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K from MEN IN BLACK was more like a Norwegian Swamp Hunter.

The next big flaw is that when you've seen one troll, you've seen them all. After the first two sightings, the film seems to be going through the motions to show us what cool CG troll the can come up with next. Also the cover-up seems implausible. These trolls are stories high, so wouldn't someone see them coming from miles away? How do you cover up a walking skyscraper? This mockumentary is more of a curiosity than compelling. By the end I was like Fee! Fie! Ho! Hum!

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks