It is at this point in André Øvredal Trollhunter that it seriously begins distinguish itself from its inspiration, The Blair Witch Project. Because it is at this point in the film when our suspicious but bemused college videographers get a glimpse of their first troll. Unlike the earlier film (and many of its imitators), this Norwegian fantasy delivers on the trolls.
The story is that Thomas, Johanna and Kalle are investigating an unlicensed hunter who seems to be stalking and killing a bear that is ravaging the countryside. They manage to get to the location where the bear corpse is, but even casual observation of the site reveals that something else is going on: The tracks are all wrong. The bear seems not to have been killed there. The bear seems like maybe it’s not even from Norway.
They follow Hans, a sullen, grouchy hunter, whom they think may be the bear killer—or something more. And in a fit of pique, he comes clean: He’s a trollhunter. He works for the Norwegian government to keep trolls from leaving their areas, and hunting them down when they do. Typically he kills them with a light—trolls turn to stone in the daylight, so he has a powerful enough lamp to bring the smaller ones down—but sometimes, as in an early case they “document”, he has to get blood samples.
It turns out the trolls are behaving oddly, and fleeing their area for unknown reason, and the four of them work together to unravel the mystery.
It works. It works very, very well. Hans comes off like any naturalist you’ve seen. He knows his stuff. (Trolls are born with one head, but they grow others as they get older. The extra “heads” are really just protuberances that scare off rivals and impress the lady trolls.) But he’s also grumpy because he doesn’t get overtime or hazard pay.
There’s this combination of nature film, horror film and mockumentary here that makes it very appealing. Hans’ irritation over how he is treated, the giant syringe he must use on the trolls, the thorough grilling of the kids as to whether or not they’re Christian—trolls can smell a Christian’s blood, you see—all keep things kind of absurdly amusing. (And there’s a good bit on the Christian thing, since one of the kids is lying, and a fourth kid turns out to be Muslim.)
There are also a lot of subtly amusing things, as when Hans places a billy goat on a bridge to lure out the troll he’s trying to catch. When that doesn’t work, he places another, larger one there. When that doesn’t work, he places a third one.
At the same time, the actual interaction with the trolls is treated with complete earnestness, giving us the opportunity to root for our characters, even though (apart from Hans) we don’t really get to know them as people. They are human and they have a sincere drive to discover the truth—for want of which several people are eaten every year while camping out in the wilds of Norway. Unlike, e.g., Blair Witch, you like the characters more as they come together under pressure rather than turning on each other, and pursue the matter when both the government and the trolls are out to get them.
A highly watchable film and easily the best movie about (real) trolls I’ve ever seen.