After showing at Sundance 2011 and having a special screening at Fantastic Fest the new Norwegian monster movie The Troll Hunter has steadily growing buzz surrounding it, written and directed by André Øvredal read on to find out if this was worthy of appearing on my most anticipated of 2011 list.

When three students decide to document their investigation into a number of mysterious bear killings they suspect an even more mysterious man and follow him to try and catch him in the act.  But what they discover is that he is not a Bear killer at all but Norway’s only Troll Hunter, surprised and shocked by the existence of Trolls they shadow Hans to learn more about the government conspiracy to cover up the knowledge of the beast and start to make a documentary about his life and to expose Norway’s darkest secret.

When it comes to found footage films the first thing I judge is if the characters are annoying and if I can actually stand to hear them whine and scream as we follow them on their journey.  Gladly, this wasn’t a problem with The Troll Hunter as the guys on screen aren’t annoying or stupid; they are a little naïve but who wouldn’t be if you’ve just discovered that a monster you though only existed in fairy tales are actually real and roaming around in your forests.

And I guess that’s the hump you’ve got to get over; it’s what the film is selling to you.  Can you get behind this premise?  If you can you’re in for one hell of a ride, if you can’t then this isn’t for you.  I loved building of the mythology, the silly little things like they can smell Christian blood and that the grow heads with age.  That stuff never really needed to be there but enhanced the overall may I say it, believability of the flick.

You feel that Øvredal keeps his tongue firmly in his cheek even when the characters are as stern and serious as they are, he never feeds you with a heavy hand and that’s what saves the film from being too naïve that you can’t get yourself engaged in the story.  Yes, at parts what they say and do is silly but you never really question the direction of the story or the truth behind it, you take it for what it is, a fantasy tale.  It doesn’t have the grittiness or great characters of Cloverfield or the intensity of REC but it doesn’t need it, the world building and character of Hans is enough to hang the film on.  His backstory alone is interesting enough for the audience to grab hold of.

Aesthetically the film looks solid, the CG is believable enough that it doesn’t take you out of the film and is only complimented by the shaky POV camera, with it never really delivering a stationary shot it’s able to keep the CG threads from unravelling.   The open introduction to the first Troll being a high point, the confusion of what is happening mixed with the obvious threat of the situation comes across well.  Some great use of night vision is also worth mentioning as well as small little things like shots of them white balancing giving anyone who’s operated a camera a little in joke.

The performances are all adequate, the students are all relatable and they portray the sense of excitement of getting footage that’s going to change the world well but were all in all a bit forgettable.  It’s Otto Jespersen with his performance of Hans that was the highlight for me.  He started out as menacing as a Norwegian Ron Pearlman but as he spends more and more time with students he is more reasonable with answering questions and revealing what has become of his life.  You get the sense that he’s had enough but knows that he is the only person who can do the job well and it’s that obligated responsibility that you can see with his every action.

It obvious that genre fans are going to eat this up no question, actually I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned up on some people’s Top 10’s of 2011 come the end of the year and I can see why, for me it doesn’t reach the highs of found footage films such as Cloverfield and REC, which is the high bar that I set every found footage film to clear.  That said it’s a great fantasy adventure that holds its own well enough and delivers a very exciting monster movie and pretty awesome climax.