July 14, 2013

Giant Monster Live-Tweet Part 2: I Want To Be A TROLL HUNTER

"Keep your distance.  I'm about to toss out some Christian man's blood."
When I saw Willow Creek, Bobcat Goldthwait talked about the film's editing, specifically the choice that every cut in the movie would be done "in camera" as the result of a character turning the recorder on or off.  It was the only thing that made sense given the film's found footage conceit. "Who are these people," Goldthwait mused, "who are editing the footage in these movies?  What kind of grisly motherfucker takes that job?"*  It's one of the many challenges of the overall genre, trying to explain away the weird internal logic of why and how the footage was not only captured, but also presented to an audience.

This is the stuff that most severely hampers Troll Hunter and keeps it from achieving true greatness.  The movie starts with (too) many title cards explaining the video's origin: three Norwegian college students are filming bear hunters when they encounter a guy named Hans who they believe to be a poacher but is in fact a secret, government-sanctioned troll hunter.  Hans drives around the Norwegian countryside in his Range Rover, looking for giant, smelly monsters who have strayed from their own territory and into populated areas.  It's his job to keep the trolls a secret from the general public and kill them if necessary.

Let me be clear: Hans kicks unholy amounts of ass.  He's a loner tasked with a virtually impossible mission, but it's his life's work and he takes great pride in it.  Living out of a camper full of severed troll tails and buckets of "troll stench," he has a small arsenal of awesome weaponry and homemade equipment designed to protect himself and aid in the tracking of his prey.  But at the same time, Hans feels tremendous sympathy for the trolls; his retelling of a time when he was ordered to massacre a whole lair of trolls, including infants that couldn't yet walk, is absolutely heartbreaking.  There are lots of subtle clues to Hans' backstory that are merely hinted at throughout the film, all of which combine with Otto Jespersen's gruff performance to create a rich, authentic character without resorting to bashing you over the head with detailed explanations.  It's a great example of doing a whole lot with very little.

And the actual troll hunting stuff is unassailably cool, borrowing from both popular fairy tales (they literally stage the old "Three Billy Goats Gruff" story) and modern science to explain the habits and behavior of trolls.  The individual creatures all look tremendous, each one getting a very distinct design and zoological history.  And since trolls are all about scent, they all have these giant noses that make them look equal parts friendly and menacing.  The methodology behind Hans' tracking and hunting gets only gets more impressive as the film goes on and the efforts of the TSS (Troll Security Service) to cover up the evidence of trolls are generally pretty clever.

The real problem is all the baggage that comes with Troll Hunter being a found footage movie.  The three college kids are boring at best, annoying at worst.  The editing is weirdly haphazard, especially on the front end when the story seems to skip entire days at a time.  And what's worse, the film's beginning and ending strain both the viewer's credibility and patience.  This is where we find all the stuff crucial to selling the found footage conceit and it just doesn't work.  However, the documentary aesthetic is very effective and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I just wish they had approached it from a different angle...perhaps a training video for future troll hunters?  Or a fact-finding mission on behalf of the TSS?  Hell, one of the questions I kept coming back to was whether or not the trolls only live in Norway.  What if the college students were replaced with a troll hunter from another country coming to document different hunting methods, to learn from the great Hans?  It's a simple change but it would alleviate a lot of the film's narrative problems.

I know trolls aren't really kaiju, but Troll Hunter is a movie that's been sitting in my Netflix queue for ages and I'm happy to have finally caught up with it.  Once the film gets going, it's fucking blast and I look forward to sharing it with others.

On with the tweets!

Next up, Q: The Winged Serpent!

*I'm paraphrasing here.  I didn't intend to see Willow Creek that day so I didn't have a recorder or a notebook for Bobcat's Q&A. 

Title: Trollhunter
Director: Andre Ovredal
Starring: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Morck, Tomas Alf Larsen, Hans Morten Hansen
Year Of Release: 2010
Viewing Method: Netflix Instant - TV

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