Coming from the mind of Norwegian writer/director André Øvredal, 'Trollhunter' is another entry in the found-footage genre. He shows great imagination in the premise, and the effects team does impressive work, but the narrative stumbles in places, giving the impression it's just an effects demo reel at times.
The premise behind the footage is revealed in title cards at the movie's beginning. On October 13, 2008, some outfit called Filmkameratene AS received an anonymous package containing 283 minutes of filmed material. What the viewer sees purports to be a rough cut of that material, and it certainly feels that way at times, in chronological order with a declaration that none of the images have been manipulated. In response to it, an investigative team spent more than a year trying to determine it was authentic.
The footage starts with three college students setting out to videotape a group of hunters going after a bear poacher. Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) is the reporter, Johanna (Johanna Mørck with Wikipedia crediting at the time of this writing Robin De Lano as the voice) is the boom operator, and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) is the cameraman. The potential poacher is identified as a man named Hans (Otto Jespersen). The team confronts him a couple of times, asking what he's up to, but he refuses to talk to them.
One evening, they follow Hans into a forest, but soon lose him. In the distance, they observe flashing lights and noises that no one would mistake for a bear. Out of the darkness, Hans runs by them and yells "Troll!" Unclear of his meaning, but responding to his haste and emotion, they follow. This is the point in the movie that may lose the easily nauseous as Kalle runs with the camera, so the visuals are distorted images bouncing about. Even though they are unable to explain their car being smashed, its tires stripped off, and the remains being covered in some type of slime when they return to it, Øvredal forces the characters to be Scully to Hans' Mulder so they don't believe him which is unbelievable. As the viewer will soon see and the marketing materials for the release of the movie and the Blu-ray make clear (mistakenly, in my opinion), Hans is right. He agrees to let the kids follow him and document his work as a trollhunter.
The visual effects team deserves high marks for their creation of the different species of trolls and how well they integrate them with the live-action footage. The one weak point is the first troll shown to the audience. The movie up to this point has been a thriller, but the figure's heads were reminiscent of a puppet and looked a tad silly. There was no doubt of the implied menace in the other trolls' appearances.
Hans is the only human character that was engaging. The others came off as place holders, even the trio of college kids who get the most screen time. When they were endangered, I had no concern because the actors and writer never gave me a reason to connect with them. A little backstory would have helped, like some internal drama between them.
Another issue is that the movie's pacing is bogged down too often. There are many exposition dumps about troll lore that would function better as an extra for fans. While part of the movie's premise is about Filmkameratene AS getting the truth out about trolls, and it's impossible to believe it's been a secret from the populace after what the movie shows the creatures do, the idea that someone would make a rough cut this long with all the scenes that are chosen to be included doesn't make sense. After the great thrills of adventure, the rest is deflating and may make you reach for the remote.
'Trollhunter' is worth seeing once because it delivers very entertaining action sequences, which will likely be the only parts people revisit.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Magnet Releasing presents 'Trollhunter' on a 50 Region A Blu-ray disc housed in a standard blue case (naturally). The menu appears after trailers for Reviews for '13 Assassins,' 'Hobo with a Shotgun,' 'Good Neighbors,' and 'The Perfect Host,' as well as an ad for the HDNet channel.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.78:1. The image quality is wide-ranging, but works well in the context of a found-footage movie, so the grade isn't as harsh as it could be were I not taking that into consideration.
During the daytime, there's a broad range of colors. The flora of Norway's countryside reveals bright hues of green, yellow, and brown. The consistency of the colors depends on the light temperature from the source material. One scene even shows cameraman readjusting the white balance. Objects in the foreground reveal sharp details and solid edges, evident in items even as small as raindrops on a car windshield.
During the nighttime scenes, during which Hans and the crew work a great deal because sunlight has lethal ramifications for the trolls, the quality of many aspects drops quite a bit. Blacks crush, sharpness and depth are greatly diminished, and noise goes through the roof. Naturally, when the green night-vision is activated, things get even worse
Thankfully and surprisingly, the image holds up better than most found-footage movies in terms of artifacts related to motion during the many scenes where cameraman runs.
The Norwegian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is so much better than anticipated, considering the audio is shown to have been recorded either by Johanna and her boom microphone or the camera's built-in mic, that it actually works against the illusion the movie is trying to create about the footage, which causes me to deduct half a point, unfair as that may be.
Aside from that, 'Trollhunter' has a very strong audio track with a wide dynamic range, though my inability to speak Norwegian keeps me from fully ascertaining how clear the dialogue is. Everyone can be heard speaking throughout, except for scenes of troll involvement where words get muffled due to people whispering, being engaged in running, and noise the trolls make.
The surrounds deliver clear ambiance from the soft sounds of different vehicle engines rumbling and a faint wind blowing through the trees to the loudness created by enraged trolls. The latter is well enhanced by the strong support of the subwoofer adding to the creatures' yells, their thunderous footsteps, and the crashing of whatever gets in their way. The trolls can also be heard moving across the front channels.
The creativity and talent exhibited in 'Trollhunter' have enough charm to make a viewing worthwhile. If the urge to fast-forward comes over a viewer, they should embrace it, because there's not much worthwhile during the non-troll scenes. This Blu-ray's audio and video are very good. Had the extras shined more of spotlight on the director and FX team with some extensive features, I likely would have recommended a purchase. This is worthy of a rental.