It’s no wonder indie filmmakers are drawn to using the Blair Witch/Cloverfield-style “found footage” style for horror movies. The format covers a lot of sins: mediocre production values, weak exposition, cheap special effects, etc. Since the movies are supposed to look amateurish and formless, filmmakers can get away with a lot of ugly-looking flab in the setup. Then, in the actual horror sequences, the caught-on-the-fly style can make the fantastical look more real, and thus more astonishing.
Or at least that’s the way it goes with André Øvredal’s Norwegian creature feature Troll Hunter. The movie follows a group of student filmmakers as they head into the wilderness, where they encounter gruff, eccentric hunter Otto Jespersen, who’s on a covert mission to control the country’s troll population. When the trolls attack, they come lumbering out of the woods or mountain caves, towering over the humans, who have to blast the beasts with light to get them to explode. The trolls are the best part of Troll Hunter; they’re funny and creepy, and it’s clever the way our heroes try to bait them by putting three billygoats on top of a bridge, or by playing gospel music to fool the trolls into believing they have the blood of Christian men.
But here’s what’s not so good in Troll Hunter: the actual troll hunting. A good hour-plus of this movie is dedicated to short shots of the Norwegian landscape as seen from a moving vehicle, and while the countryside is beautiful, the cinematography isn’t. (Because, y’know… “found footage.”) Almost lost in all the shaky-cam shots of trees and roads is a funny performance by Jespersen, playing a man who takes his responsibilities seriously, but still yearns for reinforcements. He’s a star who deserves a real movie, not just the occasional sharp line between scene after scene of young people driving.