The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Not the internet kind of trolls

with 22 comments

Let’s talk about trolls.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I mention them? Perhaps you think of someone who finds a strange pleasure in mocking and bullying strangers online? It wouldn’t surprise me. We don’t talk that much about the classical horror element from the Scandinavian lore.

There was a time when trolls were top on mind in the monster category, only challenged by dragons. But since then zombies, vampires and crossovers between spiders and reptiles from outer space have taken over as creatures you use to scare people.

Trolls are about as rare on the movie screen as they are in reality, and that’s one of the reasons why the Norwegian Trollhunter is so refreshing and fun.

In the movie we get to follow a group of students as they’re investigating what appears to be a series of bear killings. Soon they get track of a mysterious man, who turns out to be a troll hunter and they follow him as he’s doing his dirty and dangerous work.

The format – a fake documentary, put together by supposedly “found footage” has been used before in movies such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. And of course Trollhunter contains all you could expect in terms of shaky camera work and arbitrary cuts, pastes and jumps. I’ve seen a few complaints about this coming from people who have seen many fake documentaries before and now question if we really need one more.  Since I haven’t watched any of the predecessors, it’s not a problem to me.

And besides – come on! This is different. It’s a movie about trolls, real trolls, as spotted in Scandinavia. Of course we need it!

Considering the low budget, the trolls and special effects were surprisingly well done, without being particularly scary. I’m generally quite squishy and I didn’t have to close my eyes once. There was blood and a few killings, but it’s not the sort of movie where you get invested in the characters and care all that much about them. On the other hand I was thoroughly entertained, giggling a lot at tongue- in-cheek humor and the various intricate revelations about the true nature of trolls and what power lines really are for.

I’m not sure how well Trollhunter will work for an international audience. For someone who grew up with trolls in fairy tales, and can recognize the associations, it was a pleasure to watch. I suppose some of this will pass unnoticed for a foreigner. On the other hand there’s always the stunningly beautiful scenery to enjoy. A product placement from the Norwegian Tourist board?

I read somewhere that they’ve sold the rights to an American remake of this movie. It boggles my mind why someone would like to do that. The whole point with  Trollhunter is that it’s so thoroughly Scandinavian.

Here’s to the hope that the trolls will find those people and bite their heads off!

Trollhunter (Trolljegeren, André Øvredal, NO 2010) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

September 27, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Trollhunter

22 Responses

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  1. Hear hear!

    Leave our trolls be!

    Tessy

    September 27, 2011 at 8:52 am

    • Well… they ought to be killed I suppose? But the Scandinavian way.

      Jessica

      September 27, 2011 at 5:30 pm

  2. I loved this movie and indeed, the lowbudget flair and faithfulness to the scandinavian troll imagery, the way they are depicted in countless fairy tales. I’m a fan of John Bauer’s folk tales, tomtar och troll – I always imagined trolls to look that way. I’m skeptical about the remake myself, but then I’m happy to see as many projects as possible with themes like this. if they go overboard with the graphics it will be a letdown, but sometimes a director actually has the right feel (and afaik it will be the same guy who made the potter series). we’ll see, I guess.

    Syl

    September 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    • Oh, I love John Bauer too. I was thinking about referring to him in this post, but when I did a quick google search, the images that came up weren’t all that close to the trolls in the movie. Bauer’s trolls are a little bit cuter I’d dare say. Buy they’re still good trolls! More trolls ftw! There are far too few of them around in the pop culture nowadays.

      Jessica

      September 27, 2011 at 5:31 pm

      • I must confess to not having heard of John Bauer before (but some of the pictures google showed me after a search were very familiar 🙂 Sounds like he is a little to Swedes what Theodor Kittelsen is to Norwegians? He illustrated several of the folk tales collections that were made in the national romantic period in the mid-1800’s, and I think in Norway his pictures are generally accepted as “correct” troll pictures. (Considering that there were some desire in Norway at this time to establish Norwegian culture as an entity, it would be interesting to hear which differences Steffo below were thinking of between Swedish and Norwegian trolls – I always assumed they were very similar).

        Some of the Kittelsen pictures that I think most/all Norwegians recognize:

        Forrest troll:

        “The troll that ponders its own age”:

        Sea troll:

        Nøkken:

        (I am not sure if Nøkken counts as a troll. But the Sea troll painting seems a lot like Draugen, which is kind of related to Nøkken. Nøkken is a creature that resides in water (inland water) while Draugen is a creature of the sea. Both, but I think especially Draugen, can be the cause of lost boats/drownings. The sea was quite fearsome in that regard – at least up to 1900 or so drowning was the most common cause of death for (grownup/above age 15) men in Northern Norway. If there is a large difference in folk culture between Norway and Sweden in regards to what kind of trolls there are, maybe the difference is partly not actually between Swedes and Norwegians but rather between those involved in fisheries/living along the coast and inlanders?)

        Syrien

        September 30, 2011 at 11:24 am

        • That was very enlightening, thank you so much!
          I had never heard of Kittelsen before, but I absolutely adore his trolls´! They’re slightly less sweet and more scary than Bauer’s if you ask me. But just as stunning. I think you’re on to something making a difference between people living in the sea and people from the coast/mountain areas. It’s easy to think according to the current boundaries, which not necessarily are representative of how old beliefs and traditions have spread.

          Jessica

          September 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm

  3. This was a fun film. I was genuinely convinced that trolls could exist in our world. The concluding sequences were mind-blowing. Cannot understand the idea of a remake. Ridiculous. It’s effective because of where it is set – the country becomes a character in itself.

    Andrew Buckle

    September 29, 2011 at 12:44 am

    • Agreed. Trolls could totally exist – and probably do 😉 – but only in Norway/Sweden. They’re born out of our rocks and trees, totally connected to the landscape. That’s what makes the trolls in this movie so awesome.

      Jessica

      September 29, 2011 at 7:24 am

  4. Vi har uppenbarligen samma smak vad gäller den här skapelsen! 🙂
    Många tycks ha retat sig på det dokumentära formatet, men liksom du hade jag inga större problem med det.
    Imponerande klass på effekterna trots den påstådda lilla budgeten…

    http://steffofilm.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/trolljegeren-2010/

    [Rough translation: “We obviously have the same feelings about this piece of creation. Many people seem to be annoyed at the documentary format, but like you I had no major issue with it. The class of the effects is impressing, inpspite of the alledgedly small budget…”]

    Steffo

    September 29, 2011 at 9:05 am

    • Yep! I agree with everything you say in your review. Thanks for pointing me to it. I can’t say that I’m aware of differences between Swedish and Norwegian trolls. But maybe there are? Was there anything particular about them you had in mind?

      Jessica

      September 29, 2011 at 9:48 am

  5. I really liked this film! To me it elevated the found footage genre and I really liked the troll hunter character. The scene at the diner where he explains the differences between different trolls was super good.

    I actually hope for a proper Norwegian sequel.

    Joel Burman

    October 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    • He was wonderful! I smile whenever I think about it. It never occurred to me that they could make a sequel. Usually I’m not a fan of that, when you just milk a franchise as much as possible… it’s a little lazy. But actually thinking about it – in this case, I’d love to see another troll movie! It wasn’t very long and I haven’t had enough of trolls yet.

      Jessica

      October 6, 2011 at 11:14 pm

  6. […] Last Norwegian Troll (Pjotr Sapegin, NO, 2010) If you’re as much into trolls as I am after watching Trollhunter, this is a must-see. It’s an extended animated version of the fairy tale “The three […]

  7. I enjoyed some parts of the movie. The scenery was beautiful, watching the waterfalls running down forested areas sure is eye-candy. And there were a few funny moments. The explanation for the power cables and my favorite, the Poles who sell bears to the watchers.

    My main problem with the movie is that I just can’t get myself into believing those trolls exist, they look so goofy. And that’s indeed why it’s a very Scandinavian movie, you have to know the troll stories. The movie would have worked better for me if they didn’t show the trolls. Just shake the trees when they approach or go for some long shots.

    Carra

    November 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    • Well, I thought the trolls were well made, but not quite believable… more on the humorous side so to say. Which I enjoyed. But I think you might appreciate them more if you’re familliar with the Scandinavian troll lore.

      Jessica

      November 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm

  8. […] Trollhunter – a found footage film from Norway that totally won me over […]

  9. Sometimes I worry that a blog isn’t appropriate for discussing movies. Old posts like this sometimes get ignored comments. But, I just watched this movie on Netflix (added to my queue mostly because of this post) and found it to be absolutely terrific. A wonderful movie, even if I likely didn’t pick up on the Scandinavian cultural points.

    My only minor quibble was the Christian blood thing. They tried hard to have a scientific explanation for everything else about the trolls, but then there was no real way to explain why Christian blood was different. But, that’s a minor issue with an otherwise engrossing movie.

    Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    February 6, 2012 at 7:48 am

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! That’s about the most rewarding comment you can get – someone goes on your recommendations and end up enjoying it as much as you did. I think the Christian blood thing shouldn’t be taken seriously. The question they raised there was intended as some kind of mockery against how badly adapted the fairy tales are for a modern global world, I think.

      In any case, I’m glad it’s so enjoyable even for non-Scandinavians.

      Jessica

      February 6, 2012 at 8:07 am

      • That’s one of the places where my dad would change his voice for dramatic effect when reading fairytales to us as kids, the part where someone (usually Askeladden [Ashboy], one of our most common fairytale heroes) is hiding in the troll’s hideout, and the troll comes home, sniffs the air and say “Her lukter kristenmanns blod!” (“Here smells of christian man’s blood!”). I don’t recall if we ever asked him the question if us atheist kids could go sneak into troll houses safely, though.

        Syrien

        February 6, 2012 at 8:42 am

        • By the way, another Norwegian folklore-based movie has its premiere later this month, called Thale and based on Huldra (No idea what she’s called in English though). http://www.dagsavisen.no/kultur/utlandet-lokkes-av-huldra/ has some more info for those who can read Scandinavian.

          Syrien

          February 6, 2012 at 10:23 am

          • I just looked it up at imdb. Not that much information so far but it sounds promising. If it’s as good as TrollHunters, I’m all in for it.

            Jessica

            February 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm

  10. […] inte blir skrämd av Trolljegeren måste jag säga att jag, i likhet med många andra (hej Fiffi, Jessica, filmitch, Flmr, Jojjenito, Plox och Voldo), absolut blev charmad av denna norska folktrovariant […]


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