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Magnolia Home Entertainment // PG-13 // August 23, 2011
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 21, 2011 | E-mail the Author
A few college students in Norway were bored stiff shooting a documentary about bear hunters, and when they thought they'd stumbled onto a more intriguing angle to cover -- a poacher following in the hunters' footsteps -- they
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decided to chase him down instead. Turns out that Hans (Otto Jespersen) is hunting something else altogether, and unless you somehow managed to miss the title up there in big, bold letters, you know what's in his crosshairs: trolls! The existence of trolls is a tightly-held government secret, but Hans is getting kinda frustrated shouldering such grueling work by himself and not even getting paid all that well to do it. So, after the college kids pester him enough, Hans breaks his silence and agrees to let them tag along on a few troll hunts, at least as long as they follow his orders to the letter. Normally Hans isn't out in the field that much, but something's been driving the trolls out of their usual stomping grounds and out towards civilization more and more often lately. These towering creatures are even nastier than usual these days, and seeing as how the intro spells out that this footage was found but the kids who shot it never were...kinda goes without saying that it doesn't end well.

Trollhunter is a found-footage monster flick, kind of like a mashup of this sub-sub-sub-genre's two best known movies. You've got The Blair Witch Project's student filmmakers, a lot of backstory and lore to delve into, and a fiercely independent streak, and you're also looking at gigantic CGI creatures and large-scale destruction straight out of the Cloverfield playbook. I'll go ahead and rattle off a quick checklist of everything Trollhunter pulls off well. Even though Trollhunter's first three-headed CG beastie looks a little cartoonish and ridiculous, the creature designs get more eerie and more menacing as the movie breezes along. This isn't one of those microbudget genre flicks where people are always talking about a monster but you only see it in quick, blink-and-oops-you-missed-it flashes; a lot of the visual effects work here looks incredible, and Trollhunter wants you to see it too.
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Oh, and there are a lot of trolls, by the way. The hunt for runaway trolls takes Hans and the college kids from one end of Norway to the other, and Trollhunter does work on some level as a kind of shaky-cam travelogue. The location shots are greatly varied and absolutely breathtaking, making Trollhunter feel big and expansive even when there aren't any computer-generated monsters stomping around the frame. Otto Jespersen is completely convincing playing a grizzled, ass-kicking troll hunter, and a lot of my favorite scenes in the movie don't have any visual effects wizardry at all: just Hans rattling off how all those fairy tales about trolls mesh with reality. Trollhunter also has a dementedly dark comedic streak that makes it a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

What doesn't work so well...? Trollhunter definitely makes the right decision in keeping the focus on Hans since he's the most compelling character in the movie, but that leaves the three college kids fading into the background. As likeable as the actors are, none of them have a chance to develop personalities that really beam through, and one is so thinly sketched that when he winds up mangled and lifeless in a troll siege, it
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hardly even registers. The pacing as a whole tends to be kind of leisurely, and there are a few too many scenes bogged down by repetitive dialogue or the camera being aimed out the window for the eight quadrillionth time where I started to feel desperate to mash the fast-forward button. The disclaimer at the beginning explains that Trollhunter is a rough assembly of this footage that was found in the middle of nowhere, and even though that's obviously just a gag, the movie does sometimes feel more like a rough draft than a tightly-edited final cut. There are also some plot points that are underdeveloped or never really go anywhere. One of the trolls chomps into Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) fairly early on, and Trollhunter makes it a point to keep his wounds fresh in the audience's mind as if that's going to be critical later on. Nope. Never amounts to anything. There's a running subplot about a government agent (Hans Morten Hansen) who heads up the covert Troll Security Service...someone whose job relies on keeping the existence of trolls a secret, and he'll occasionally mention how he's going to snatch the footage these kids are shooting. Never comes across as a credible threat and nothing ever really comes of it. There are a bunch of really great ideas scattered throughout Trollhunter, but it's as if the movie kind of forgets to do anything with them and just moves onto whatever new, shiny thing grabs its attention later on.

Even with all those missteps and hiccups along the way, Trollhunter still manages to be lot of fun, and the Scandinavian backdrop, cacklingly witty sense of humor, and eagerness to show off the visual effects work set it apart from a bunch of the other found-footage horror flicks out there. Imperfect, yeah, but still very much Recommended.

Trollhunter is supposed to look like a rough-and-tumble documentary, so don't waltz in expecting it to be polished to a sparkling gleam or anything. The photography skews soft and noisy, especially under low light. That's
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obviously all a deliberate part of the movie's aesthetic, though. Trollhunter looks every bit as good on Blu-ray as it possibly can, and I'm sure it's a nice step up over the DVD, but high definition eye candy it's not so much.

This Blu-ray presentation of Trollhunter opens up the mattes slightly to an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and the movie has been encoded with AVC. After adding in all the high-def extras, Trollhunter spills over onto both layers on this BD-50 disc.

Purists don't have to sweat it. The default soundtrack for Trollhunter presents the film in its original Norwegian and in six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio to boot. If you don't feel like futzing with subtitles, a second DTS-HD Master Audio track has been dubbed into English...and, skimming through it, features a very different mix as well. I'm not one for dubs so much, so I stuck with the Norwegian track, and this Blu-ray disc really doesn't leave me with much to gripe about. Being a faux-documentary and all, dialogue naturally gets the lion's share of the audio's attention, and there aren't any concerns or missteps on that front. There are some splashes of atmospheric color in the surrounds: bleating goats, eerie sounds in the forest, a metallic rattle during the final chase, and even some birds flapping their way from the rear channels up to the front speakers. Not surprisingly, the mix really screams to life when the trolls tear onto the screen. Their stomps and snarls grab a chokehold on the surrounds and the subwoofer, and the sound design gets every bit as aggressive as those ten-story monstrosities. This is a really strong effort, and it's definitely appreciated that the original Norwegian audio has been lavished with as much attention on Blu-ray as the English dub.

There are three -- three! -- English subtitle streams: one traditional track, a narrative stream, and another subtitled for the deaf and hard of hearing. Whatever you're looking for, chances are it's in here somewhere. Also included are Spanish subs.

  • Deleted Scenes (4 min.; HD): Not all that much is in this reel of five deleted scenes, clocking in around three and a half minutes in all. There's a boob joke, the college students chatting with some farmers about what might've killed their livestock, and a peek at a troll hairball, among a couple other things. These scenes are bookended with just enough footage from the theatrical cut of Trollhunter to let you know where they would've fit in.

  • Improv and Bloopers (2 min.; HD): There are three really short snippets here: a followup to the landmine in Hans' creaking SUV, a gag
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    about hunter's stew, and a few quick outtakes.

  • Extended Scenes (8 min.; HD): Three scenes are expanded from what made it into the finished flick, although for the most part, the extensions make it all feel kind of rambling and aimless. I do like the longer cut of the Troll 101 lesson over breakfast where Hans fields questions about vegetarian trolls and the art of troll hunting.

  • Behind the Scenes (23 min.; HD): Rather than opt for a straightahead making-of piece, "Behind the Scenes" compiles seven different featurettes that can be played individually or all at once. These clips generally have a candid, fly-on-the-wall feel to them rather than a bunch of talking heads in a studio. Among the highlights are the cast and crew clowning around as they wait for cameras to start rolling again, putting together a giant troll foot like some kind of oversized 3D puzzle, Hans in his homemade armor playing Three Billy Goats Gruff, and watching a P.A. or someone make bear tracks in the mud. They're all overflowing with personality, a lot of fun, and definitely worth taking the time to watch.

  • Visual Effects (6 min.; HD): There are four microfeaturettes piled on here, showcasing different render passes and 3D models of the computer-generated trolls.

  • Photo Galleries (6 min.; HD): This feature cycles through two different galleries: pencil sketches of different trolls as well as stills of the many different locations throughout Norway where the movie was shot.

  • HDNet: A Look at Trollhunter (4 min.; HD): Although the theatrical trailer didn't find its way onto this Blu-ray disc, the making-of featurette feels close enough to it. It's a promotional piece that basically plays like an extended trailer with some very brief interviews spliced in there. The comments swirl heavily around trying to flesh out a sense of reality.

The Final Word
The Blair Witch Project with Norwegian trolls, a CGI budget, and a sense of humor: hey, who needs to slog their way through a long, long review when I could've just typed that out? Like Blair Witch before it, Trollhunter is anything but perfect -- it does feel kind of shapeless and rambling at times, as if this is just a rough cut of a movie that'd run 77 minutes when it's all said and done -- but still, this is a fun, imaginative, and definitely unique found-footage-monster-doc. If you missed Trollhunter in theaters -- and, c'mon, of course you did! -- this is a movie that's definitely worth discovering on Blu-ray. Recommended.
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