Nov 032011


There’s a large, gaping hole left in a weird, over looked film genre, I think. I’m not even sure it could be referred to as an official “genre;” I just feel as though I haven’t seen a movie like Ghostbusters in a long time.  I’m talking about a movie that takes a generally scary topic, ghosts in that instance, and injects humor, irreverence, distinct visual style and still manages to keep a palpable degree of horror at the surface of it all. An American Werewolf in London is in the same ball park but they’re playing cricket instead of baseball…which doesn’t really work for my irreverence arguement as cricket is just silly. Hell, I think that even Ivan Reitman might’ve been so taken aback by what he, Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd made that they just had to copy it in the form of Ghostbusters 2 because they didn’t know where to go after the first one. I’ll begrudginly acknowledge Evolution but only because David Duchonvy keeps his “I can wear James like a puppet whenever I want” award in his pocket at all times, I’m sure.

Set in Norway, the found footage / mockumentary-styled film known as Trollhunter has us following 3 film students from the university of [insert Scandavian word] as they investigate the bear poaching stories that have been all the rage as of late. They narrow down their search to one, grizzly-looking mofo by the name of Hans (Otto Jespersen) and proceed to pester the shit out of him until they can get an interview. After tailing this dude, making note of his odd behaviors (throwing tires all over the gorgeous, Scandavian countryside, for instance) they finally get the balls to follow him into the woods in the middle of the night where they experience the terror of their first troll.  And it’s from here on out and through these kids that we get shoved into the secret world of troll hunting.

Trollhunter might be a good contender for being this generation’s Ghostbusters. It does so many things right that I don’t even know where to begin. If this turns out to be an incoherent mess of circlejerkery, then yeah, it’s like all my other reviews but I promise to use complete sentences this time. I’m still making up words like “circlejerkery” though.

Considering that a good portion Scandinavians unashamedly profess their belief that trolls are in fact, very real things that affect their day to day lives in all manner of ways, it comes as no surprise that this movie keeps its mythology deliciously tight. There are different troll species and you will learn about them, why they act the way they do, why they look the way they do, what kills them AND the fun as fuck pseudoscience behind it. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll have your hands proping your head up with a big, dumb grin on your face whenever one of these exposition-loaded scenes pop up. I immediately went back to my childhood and wanted Ray Stanz to go over other entries in ghostly nomenclature other than that “class 5, full roaming vapor” blurb during these scenes in Trollhunter. That grounded sensation of being part of a world that has a distinct set of rules, even if those rules are grounded in structured insanity, feels so good here.

Monster design can be sorted into the “feel good” folder here too.  They all walk the fine line of goofy-looking and horrifying quite well, betraying an oafishness when they think nobody is looking and violent psychosis when on the trail of would be victims.

The sensation of immediate danger provided by such comedic looking predators is helped by some fine quality found footage camera work and par to great acting.  Tense scenes lose nothing in translation, fear is universal, though I’m sure I missed a few subtle comedic cues here there.  That’s not a problem with the Hans, fortunately.  Things have chewed on this guy quite literally, making him grizzled but never over the top.  Most of the comedy will come out his “and not a single fuck was given” attitude against a screaming hoard of trolls. And because the story provides its own logical reasoning behind said work – film students shot this – all you found footage haters can set up a perfect Scorsese-esque shot of you kissing my ass; this narrative style of shooting works in many cases and Trollhunter proves that.  But really, it’s okay if you don’t like it.

...even I don't like everything.

Overlooking the obvious things not helping American audiences not embrace this like the found footage style of shooting and being in a foreign language, Trollhunter doesn’t have a lot working against it.  The dry humor may be a bit to dry for some – a kink in the armor of my Ghostbusters comparison-a-thon and sometimes the pacing will have folks who need it go and refill their Adderall prescriptions.  But if you sit there and argue against the humor behind Norway’s surplus of gravel, I don’t want to know you.  Approved and recommended.

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