Horrorthon '11: Trolljegeren (André Øvredal, 2010)

The "found footage" fad continues to expand. With titles like "The Blair Witch Project" and "Cloverfield" making major waves, for better or for worse we've seen the likes of "Quarantine", "Paranormal Activity" and "The Last Exorcism" pop up with similar premises involving small, camcorder-carrying and/or security camera-surveilled groups documenting supernatural horrors before never being heard from again due to one climactic tragedy or another. The style typically comes with a greater illusion of authenticity than the traditional third-person composition, creating in more convincing examples a unique fear for audiences, some of whom are certainly tantalized with the wonder of what's real and what's not.

A personal favorite of mine is the Alaska-set 2009 reenactment/"found footage" combination, "The Fourth Kind", starring none other than my darling Milla Jovovich. Jovovich introduces the film as herself (as director Olatunde Osunsanmi himself does epilogically), stating up front that she is dramatically recreating, "Rescue 911"-style, the true events "actually" recorded by her character or the authorities - recordings often shown side-by-side with the "recreations" in distressing comparison. This example's more overt fashion of blurring fiction and reality - which also included false websites registered by Universal Studios to back up character legitimacy through archived newspaper articles, etcetera - went so far it incited a lawsuit from the Alaska Press Club that was eventually settled out of court for $20,000.

Of course the "Fourth Kind" seduction is aided by its subject matter - very believable and credible-sounding cases of alien abduction. André Øvredal's "TrollHunter", charting the reveal of legendary troll existence in Norway - a monstrous subject rarely traversed - through a team of collegiate journalists and a disgruntled employee of the TSS ("Troll Security Service"), is more difficult a pill to swallow to the point that I can hardly imagine anyone taking it as factual for so much as an instant. The title card introduction setting up the finding, editing and professional evaluation of the would-be earth-shattering footage is hokey and transparent, the story progression is clearly scripted, the computer effects characteristically stand out from their practical backings... yet, really, none of this hinders the picture's core entertainment value.

Another rampant fad is the demystification of established lore. As with anything, this can go both ways, and it's all subjective. We've seen contemporary sense made through garlic/crucifix-scoffing vampires and moon-immune werewolves in countless modern horrors/actioners such as the "Blade" and "Underworld" series. These imagined disclosures, to me, are interesting and involving. Contrarily, we've seen superheroes taken down similar roads, keeping it too real to the point of glorified mundanity in Christopher Nolan's influential "Batman" installments.

The demystifications in "TrollHunter" qualitatively fall somewhere in the middle of these, sending up secret anti-environmental government bureaucracies to humorous and poignant effect while dubiously selecting what is and isn't true about Norwegian troll myths. For example, yet again Christianity is highlighted, though in rather an odd, possibly contradictory manner. The trolls here - with hulking presences evocative of "Shadow of the Colossus" - can detect the odor of Christian bodily fluid, rendering atheism a stealth armor of sorts. The altering of blood, sweat, etcetera, caused by Christianity seems to acknowledge the existence of a higher power while simultaneously pointing out the weakness of belief in that alleged existence.

Further "facts" derived from troll legend include genetic and biological details that go as far as to scientifically explain why the beasts only emerge at night and why some explode and others turn to stone when exposed to sunlight. It's all intriguing enough for an hour and a half - and it's all there, troll piss, troll farts, troll... well, unfortunately we don't get dangling troll genitalia - but it never clears the leap from the realm of fantasy. Still, again, this never hurts the fun one stands to find within, particularly as the various details determine the interesting practical tactics the titular hunter employs to regrettably detect, track and dispatch his mystical and endangered prey.

Ultimately, though failing in its central cloy at realism, "TrollHunter" is easily one of the better examples of a "found footage" film I've seen. It takes even its more preposterous bits seriously enough that rumors of it being parody appear false. If it is parody, it is so subtle it makes a case for all of its ilk to be considered as much of themselves. It may not generate wonder in the fashion of "The Fourth Kind" but with a focus on restrained tension-building and original creatures coupled with the innate pleasure of road-tripping o'er new terrain - in this case Norway's deep forests and snowy mountains - it proves that "found footage" doesn't necessarily require that illusion to be worthwhile. Slap some "troll stink" on the believers and go to town.