It wasn’t so long ago that Korean/Japanese horror was the fertile hunting grounds for studios looking to make a quick buck. The Ring, The Grudge, The Eye, Mirrors and countless others are all products of the Hollywood makeover spa. Today those hunting grounds have seemingly moved to Scandinavia. Let the Right One In was recently remade, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake is set for release later this year. Incredibly, even while Troll Hunter is still in theaters, Chris Columbus’ company, 1492, has announced they’ve bought the rights to Americanize it.
The question is, why? At best Troll Hunter is an interesting independent film but nothing about it screams, “Make me over!”
After all, I don’t think there is much of a fanbase in America for a movie about trolls (we love our sparkly vampires and shirtless werewolves). Even if, as we’re told, there are subspecies of trolls and that they all have an aversion to direct sunlight and prefer the taste of Christian blood to other varieties. Yep, there are multi-headed trolls that live in the forests, short and squat trolls with big noses that find solace in caves, and massive trolls that live on frozen hillsides. None of them like each other either. It’s really more than I care to know about the foul creatures, but truth be told, I really didn’t mind learning about them during the 90 minute or so running time.
And for the most part that’s because as I was schooled, so were the three protagonists of the movie — Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) and Johanna (Johanna Mørck) — all fledgling documentarists and newscasters. Convinced there is something more going on with the sudden livestock slaughters and bear hunts, they shadow a stranger, Trolljegeren (Otto Jespersen), as he traverses the picturesque Norwegian countryside in hot pursuit. Of what they’re chasing, they soon find out, comes straight out of their childhood folklore and has quite a few interested parties wanting to see to it that the truth remains seen as just a myth.
Part of the payoff to believing that trolls exist is the manner in which the movie is shot. Many a person steers clear of movies shot documentary style with a handheld cam, but it is done to the benefit of Troll Hunter. Aside from a few shaky instances, the shots are relatively steady and well placed (complete opposite of, say, Cloverfield). This style also helps to put the viewer in the same frame of mind as those in the moment, while, at the same time, helping the animation and effects teams by making the less than stellar modeling of the creatures (movie cost an estimated $3.5M) look better than it really was.
On the same token, though, there is also more than a fair share of “boring” downtime afforded by this method — sitting around in rooms and in transit — that I would rather have not been privy to.
The acting trio is clearly wet behind the ears, but their naiveness actually works mostly in favor of the film too. There are no major instances of “real” acting needed, so much of what occurs in the movie for them is more along the lines of being reactionary than anything else. Otto Jespersen as the “Troll Hunter” commands most of the camera time and he does well enough to get himself hired again, even though most of his delivery is monotonous and doesn’t necessarily match the onscreen action.
Director André Øvredal manages to piece together a believable story thanks to dedicating a lot of time to developing the mythos without it making it seem like a lot of time was being dedicated to developing the mythos. Nonetheless, Troll Hunter would have been better served had it had more action sets involving the trolls and characters I gave a damn about.