Composed of, yes, footage found of some Norwegian college students (Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Glenn Erland Tosterud) making a documentary about bear poaching, the narrative unfolds across the overcast skies and chilly forests of Norway as they discover the potential poacher Hans (Otto Jespersen) is after something slightly bigger than bears.
The trolls aren’t developed much more than large (and large-nosed) creatures with odd weaknesses and a curiously specific skill at sniffing out Christians, but writer-director André Øvredal makes the most of their limited screen time with oddball designs reminiscent of old fairy tale illustrations.
The story mostly barrels along through a series of troll confrontations as Hans tries to figure out what’s causing this troll activity, but the most amusing part of the film—one that could use more development—is how Hans isn’t so much a bad-ass hunter but an underfunded, increasingly wary government employee annoyed at the dirty work he’s gotten into. That leads to a few scenes satirizing the Norwegian government’s cover-up of the trolls and how they fit into the country’s landscape, an idea that’s at times more entertaining than the battle scenes.
Trollhunter isn’t as rip-roaring as it wants to be, but it does achieve more with its low budget than most American horror films, and gets a few good laughs in to boot. As you might have guessed, there’s already plans for an American remake, though perhaps this one is best left as a Norwegian number—its setting and look contribute to much of its odd sense of humor.