Wednesday, December 28, 2011

TrollHunter, Hunter of Trolls

What does one make of André Øvredal's "found footage" so-called horror film, TrollHunter [Trolljegeren]. I skipped it at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival, but it's high ranking amongst the audience voting piqued my interest. A recent DVD release coupled with a day of bedridden rest afforded me an opportunity to watch it and I am seriously perplexed. What exactly was it that my fellow MIFF-sters, and other audiences alike, found within this Norwegian curiosity?

TrollHunter is a mockumentary type of scary flick that sees three Scandinavian college reporters stumble across an environmental news story with quite big ramifications. Turns out trolls really do exist and they, ahem, troll across Norway wreaking havoc that a local government organisation manipulates into being labelled "natural disasters" or, more frequently, bear attacks. Right off the bat, TrollHunter is incredibly indebted to the far superior The Blair Witch Project. Everything from the two-guys-/-one-girl dynamic to even the clothes they wear. It's terribly distracting since that 1999 horror classic is so very much better than this bizarre effort from debut director Øvredal. I couldn't even tell whether his film was meant to be scary, what with the frequent scenes that don't attempt to fright and moments of apparent comedy that I guess is what they intended with the scene involving heavy duty flatulence. It wasn't until I looked at the film's IMDb profile and I saw its genre listed as "horror" that I figured I was meant to find some of this scary. Although, perhaps it's just me, but the idea of trolls doesn't exactly get me shaking in my boots. As visually impressive as these beasts are - and don't get me wrong, the visual effects are fantastic - they're not scary creatures.

I think that failing comes down, at least somewhat, to the "found footage" idea. This sort of filmmaking has become increasingly popular, but I can't help but feel it was the wrong creative decision for TrollHunter. It works for things that go bump in the night (The Blair Witch Project), underground sewer creatures (The Tunnel) and even ghost in the immensely successful Paranormal Activity franchise. But trolls? Notsomuch. I think of trolls and I think of "Nilbog", which isn't anything anybody wanting to scare should be reminding audiences of. Maybe it's just me? I find the idea of ghosts and satanic witches far more terrifying than giant, hulking fairy tale creatures that turn to stone when shown the light. Really. This mockumentary motif also flounders when it doesn't give its characters enough time to become fully fleshed out. Consider the early scenes of The Blair Witch Project and how, once they enter the woods, the scares are eventual and not sudden. In a way TrollHunter shows far too much far too early. They're proven to look a little silly and to be killed quite easily so any sense of terror and dread is almost nonexistence and, in the end, quite a bit boring. The film really lost me when they included an estabishing shot, the sort of thing that belies the entire narrative conceit in one fell swoop. Inconsistent sound design, too, doesn't help: why exactly is that lady carrying around a boom mic if their cameras record sound perfectly well without it? I admire the filmmaker's decision to play the material as straight and serious, but it never settles on being enough of one thing. Is it a scary film? Is it a horror comedy? Is it about shady governments? Is it about Norway's position in the world? It's none of those things in any large measure and suffers because of it. I can't see these trolls securing a cult following like those other nasty trolls across the pond. C-

No comments: