When I was at primary school we had two books in the library that I remember vividly. One was stories of giants (which I mainly remember because my daughter also had it at school and we read it together), and one which was stories of dragons. The dragon book was great. It was quite dense text, really nice ink drawings, and was written in such a way that you couldn’t quite tell if it was true or not. Each story was about a dragon who lived in a particular part of the country, so it was almost like a regional guide to the dragons of England. I loved it. Troll Hunter feels to me, as an adult, how that book made me feel when I was a kid. I don’t think I really believed that a dragon actually lived under a hill just outside London, and I’m pretty sure that trolls don’t really exist in Norway. If they did, though, this is exactly what they would be like.
The graphics are stunning in that they aren’t really noticeable. As far as I was concerned I was watching raw footage – here actually be dragons. In one of the extras the director talks about getting the right place for the trolls to live, and then shooting in those actual locations, ‘because people in Norway would know if it was wrong’. This authenticity and commitment is readily apparent in watching the film and means that a 100-foot tall troll smashing around the mountains really doesn’t look out of place at all.
A lot of films in this style theorise and introspect endlessly about themselves – Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, et al. “Look at us we’re making a film about making a film, and the dialogue is all really self-aware because we’re in a film – do you see?” This doesn’t do that at all, it’s just very natural, well-paced and real. This may well be a function of being a Norwegian film rather than a product of America; whatever it is it works well. As I was writing this review I realised that I’ve been thinking about this film as a documentary – not a film about making a documentary, but an actual documentary. I originally started this paragraph, ‘The crew are really good on camera as well’ – probably the best praise I can give really!