Leave it to the Norwegians to reinvigorate the "giant creature" sub-genre in a way that both reinvents and pays homage to the classics that came before. (I know virtually nothing about the Norwegians, but if they're willing to bankroll and produce flicks like this one, then consider me an official member of Team Norway.) Perhaps best described as "what Ray Harryhausen might do with the 'found footage' horror technique," the certifiably, adorably weird Troll Hunter details what happens when a group of documentary filmmakers team up to expose an infamous bearskin poacher ... who actually turns out to be Norway's only living "troll hunter." And these trolls are huge. Some of 'em are Godzilla-sized!
If that description makes The Troll Hunter sound like A) a silly, raucous affair, or B) a stern-faced "serious" monster epic, you can rest assured that the flick is actually a slyly compelling, dryly humorous, and (best of all) quietly fascinating little experiment. If we're asked to spend just a little extra time setting up the documentarians and their subject, the oddly soft-spoken "Trolljegerne" (an excellent Otto Jespersen), that's cool because their interplay (specifically the filmmakers' collective skepticism) actually helps to "sell" the crazy concept once the massive beasts show up. With twenty minutes of character work and plot development, The Troll Hunter is a bona-fide feature film. Without the quieter moments, it'd be a diverting little short with some surprisingly nifty special effects.
Writer / director Andre Ovredal tries a novel approach with his monster story: all the characters are actively fascinated by the beasts. Scared and confused, to be sure, but also truly interested in discovering a creature long since dismissed as legend. That's not to say that The Troll Hunter doesn't work as a matinee-style monster-fest, but more that it's a flick about why we're fascinated by giant creatures -- and not so much in what happens when they pick us up to eat us. Jespersen brings a fantastic duality to his role: he's a no-nonsense pest exterminator on one hand, but on the other he seems to admire the giant trolls for their own natural place in the world.
Almost certainly destined to be remade by Hollywood, The Troll Hunter is a enjoyably odd cross-breed of horror, adventure, and mockumentary, and it forges ahead with a confidence that can only be found by enthusiastic filmmakers who are creating something they wanted to see as a kid. Ovredal strikes a great balance between silly, scary, and sincere, and it's that cool sense of schizophrenia that makes The Troll Hunter the coolest monster movie import since The Host.