Troll Hunter Blu-ray Review

The found-footage monster movie (a subgenre of a subgenre if there ever was one) is, at best, a hit-or-miss breed of film.

Troll Hunter, now on Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment, is a hit.


In the 2010 Norwegian film, a trio of college students are producing a documentary they think is about a rogue bear poacher who’s been claiming the kills of the government-registered bear hunters. But, as the title suggests, the supposed poacher in question – Hans (Otto Jespersen) – is hunting an entirely different predator: trolls.

It’s a movie with a ridiculous premise, and the filmmakers treat it as such without turning it into an absolute farce.

Troll Hunter is certainly not a movie that needs to function on performance (although the work of the actors is more than serviceable). Despite the low-budget look to the film, the CGI trolls are incredible and lifelike.

And despite the film’s ability to survive and thrive on its own merits, it’s almost impossible not to invite comparisons to the two best-known examples of the found-footage picture: The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield.

Putting Troll Hunter side-by-side with Blair Witch gives Troll Hunter an easy win. The Blair Witch Project shares a very similar theme: three college students making a documentary wind up in the middle of horrific events.

But while Blair Witch spends about 80 minutes of its 90-minute runtime building tension to a less-than-satisfying payoff, Troll Hunter is continually building tension and paying it off in short order, all while never giving its biggest and best surprises away too quickly.

Also, Troll Hunter has a sense of humor, both in terms of how the characters react to their predicaments and in a self-aware fashion that constantly winks at the audience as if to say, “Look, we know this is ridiculous (ludicrous even!), but it’s fun, right?”

In comparison to Cloverfield, as mind-boggling as it might sound, Troll Hunter comes across as being both more believable and more immersive. While watching Cloverfield, no matter how wrapped up one becomes in the story, it’s impossible not to ask oneself, “How has this camera’s battery not run dead yet?”

With Troll Hunter, there’s too much fun to be had to sweat the details.

As much as this isn’t a movie about performance, Otto Jespersen is brilliant in his understatement as the titular troll hunter. There’s a moment in the movie where Hans, who works for a super-secret branch of the Norwegian government, is asked by the kids why he’s allowing them to film his work. His answer is simple: “Because this is a shitty job.”

In that one line a character, hilarious in his construction and relatable in presentation, is defined. This is a guy who hates his job so much he’s trying to get fired. From that moment, which comes about 15 or 20 minutes into the film, I was hooked.

Also, as noted earlier, the physical presentation of the trolls themselves is incredible. This could easily have been a low-rent, SyFy-esque picture. Instead, director Andre Ovredal uses all the tricks of cinema beneath his sleeve to make these ridiculous creatures come to life.

He’s a smart enough filmmaker not to give you too many great visuals too soon. The first troll seen in the film is, frankly, a little bit laughable. It’s believable but almost too ridiculous-looking not to laugh at. But each successive troll becomes more real and more terrifying.

In spite of all the praise that I’ve heaped on Troll Hunter so far, the movie does have a handful of problems.

While Hans is treated with enough mystery and intrigue to keep him interesting, the other characters in the film are treated almost as the movie’s unwanted guests, a huge mistake considering that these are the eyes through which the audience is watching the action.

Another problem lies with the depiction of Hans’s immediate superior, Finn Haugen (Hans Morten Hansen). The character pops up from time-to-time, and we’re led to believe that he’s our primary antagonist, but he never does anything particularly antagonistic.

Both of these are essentially problems with the story’s structure. It’s as if Ovredal (who also wrote the film’s screenplay) knew these were elements that had to be in the movie but had no interest in developing them.

High-Def Presentation

Troll Hunter comes to Blu-ray with a well-rendered MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer that’s not perfect but works very well for the film.

Given the grainy, do-it-yourself look the movie was going for, the noise during night-time scenes is more than forgivable and also made-up-for by the day scenes, which manage to capture the homemade aesthetic while maintaining a broad, cinematic look.

It’s not the best picture in the world, but that’s by design, which doesn’t detract points from the final verdict but also doesn’t earn any merits. It looks real as opposed to the aforementioned Cloverfield, which reeks of manufactured reality.

In terms of the sound, Magnolia presents Troll Hunter with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is, thankfully, more-than-willing to trade realism for a truly immersive theater experience. The roars of the trolls and the sounds of the devastation they cause pack a big punch without overpowering, and all the dialogue (whether it’s in a quiet, talky scene or in the midst of a troll attack) comes across very clear.

Beyond the Feature

Deleted Scenes (3.5 min) – The scenes themselves aren’t much to write home about, but they do context something that’s sorely lacking from most deleted scenes features: Context. There’s just enough footage from the final cut at either end of the cut scenes to let you know where they would’ve fallen, rather than just a collection of deleted scenes for the sake of deleted scenes. Obviously, it doesn’t take a lot to impress me.

Improv and Bloopers (2 minutes) – Again, not much to write home about here. It’s the language barrier more than anything else that likely turns me off to this feature, so take my less-than-enthusiastic reaction to this feature with a grain of salt.

Extended Scenes (8 minutes) – This feature is a handful of extended scenes that, while they serve as an interesting snapshot of what might have been, don’t really offer much expansion to the story. It’s immediately clear why they weren’t included, which, in effect, nullifies any interest I might have had in them.

Behind the Scenes (23 minutes) – Now we’re getting somewhere. Whereas most making-of featurettes are boring snippets of press junket sound bites with a few minutes of on-the-set action, this is very much a you-are-there account of the making of the film. One of the better making-of shorts I’ve seen in some time. It’s a short feature, clocking in at about 23 minutes, but the length is really just about right. Had it gone much longer, it likely would’ve run out of steam. Kudos to Magnolia for having the foresight to scale it back.

Visual Effects (6 minutes) – This is a selection of four pods that take a look at how the aesthetically-challenged (ah, to hell with it: they’re butt-ugly!) trolls were created. If you’re way into the whole “How does movie magic happen?” you’ll be into it; otherwise, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

Photo Galleries – A collection of snapshots of the Norwegian locations used in the picture as well as some conceptual art depicting the troll design process.

HDNet: A look at Troll Hunter (4 minutes) – As with the similarly-titled feature included on Magnolia’s release of The Perfect Host, this is little more than a four-minute commercial. Skip it.

I had every expectation in the world of being severely underwhelmed by Troll Hunter and wound up enjoying it immensely.

There’s not a single name in the film you’ll recognize, and unless you speak Norwegian, you’re not likely to recognize any of the words (the film is presented with English subtitles). And it breaks the language barrier in a big, bad, way, and entertains like few monster movies in recent memory have.

Shop for Troll Hunter on Blu-ray for a discounted price at Amazon.com (August 23, 2011 release date).

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