It started with Spinal Tap. Mockumentary: A curious idea that seemed to serve that comedy well. Then The Blair Witch Project happened; another mockumentary, except this time made really cheaply and earning unbelievable profits. Horror and mockumentary became inextricably linked. Over the years it’s been done with varying degrees of success, from Paranormal Activity (yeah!) to Diary of the Dead (boo!). The style is now being tackled in Norwegian in Troll Hunter (or The Troll Hunter, or TrollHunter... Damn marketing people can’t seem to make up their minds).
Troll Hunter opens as a simple documentary made by a trio of college students about a local mystery, but they soon find themselves dealing with more than they bargained for; so basically the exact same plot as Blair Witch. The opening does feel quite like Blair Witch as the students have fun making their film and investigating a spate of mysterious bear killings. Pretty soon, however, they encounter the mysterious Hans, and decide to follow him, only to discover that Trolls are real and Hans works for the government hunting them down.
Many of the ideas come from traditional Norwegian folklore, which a wider audience might not get. Fortunately, context explains many of the concepts and one riff about religion works particularly well.
This is a rather excellent concept for a film but doesn’t quite succeed. Most of the characters seem completely false. Director André Øvredal seems to have absolutely no respect for student filmmakers as his characters barely know how to operate a camera, never mind recognise how to gather together good supporting material. The characters also seem to completely lack souls: they have absolutely no emotional attachment to each other whatsoever and never react to events beyond the short term. They seem terrified one moment, only to dart off excited about more danger the next.
The exception is Otto Jespersen as Hans the Troll Hunter. Jespersen struggles under the weight of a very unbelievable script but manages to come out on top, nailing the downtrodden outdoorsman, even if some of his actions seem a bit stupid to an outside observer. The third star is for his performance alone.