Just when the mock-documentary horror movie seemed to have breathed its last, along comes a smart Norwegian riff to rejuvenate the sub-genre. Writer/director André Øvredal has plundered Norwegian fairy tales, yet somehow grounded the hunt for mythical trolls in a quotidian reality that makes it easy to suspend our disbelief. Although Øvredal cites as an influence the deadpan black comedy of Benoît Poelvoorde’s ‘Man Bites Dog’, the tone here is more droll than bleak. But his decision to play the fantastical events absolutely straight creates a matter-of-fact tone that gets funnier and more frightening as the absurdity spirals.
The writer-director’s storytelling coup is to focus not on the three wide-eyed student filmmakers who have come to the frozen north to report on bear attacks, but on the country-music-loving hunter, Hans, a jaded government employee played with effective understatement by poker-faced comedian Otto Jesperson. The students are understandably bemused by the grouchy Hans’s rambling tales of the secretive Troll Security Service and its campaign against the various types of monster: the ferocious Ringelfinches or the three-headed Tosserlads. Sarcastic sceptic Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) snipes from behind the camera, but is no match for the naive enthusiasm of the driven Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud). The sensible Johanna (Johanna Mørck) tries to keep their feet on the ground, even when the earth is being shaken by the thundering steps of rampaging trolls.
Given that the cast improvised all the scenes live on set, the dialogue has a surprising ring of truth, and is shot through with an unexpected, often unsettling, humour. Hallvard Bræin’s nimble, shakycam cinematography captures the still, frozen beauty of the tundra and the flailing brute strength of the CGI creatures themselves. These trolls are like giant, blundering children – comical, yet terrifying.[Time Out]