I find mockumentary an iffy genre at best these days. It often creates a false realism, but one not earned by its films. It creates a false sense of urgency because this time it’s not a movie, it’s real. Some movies take this premise and rise above it. I felt like Cloverfield pulled this off, and now André Øvredal’s Trollhunter, or The Troll Hunter, has achieved the same sense of showing monsters towering over average people.
Student documentarians track Hans, an alleged bear poacher, only to discover his true profession: Troll Hunter. Hans works for a shadowy branch (as if there was any other kind) of the Norwegian government, the Troll Security Service, cleverly part of the Wildlife Board. Framing troll attacks clumsily as bear attacks, which seems to fool everyone and no one at the same time, Hans tracks and eliminates the troll threat.
Hans, though, is a weary, lonely man, and allows the documentary crew to accompany him and film his work, clearly not a good idea for anyone involved but too fascinating to pass up. They brave multiple troll encounters, learn their strengths, weaknesses and habits, and most importantly, learn who Hans truly is. Hans has very little contact with the outside world, seemingly spending all of his time on troll hunting. Whether it is in preparation, repairing damage to his equipment or actually attacking trolls, his entire life revolves around his one-man operation, making it easy to see the appeal of bringing along this documentary crew. He seems to have one friend in the world, possibly a lover, in a female veterinarian who examines troll samples for him. Otherwise, it’s trolls and bureaucrats, and it’s obvious which Hans prefers.
Troll Hunter’s effects are passable, as the trolls only come out at night and the scenes stay pretty dark, but they aren’t the reason to watch. It is Hans unfolding character, a man conflicted in a duty to which he is dedicated, that drives the movie. My only real complaint is the semi-copout ending. I wanted to see what the consequences were to the outing, and I suppose we know at the end of it, but it felt a little too conspiracy theorist to me. Maybe I just wanted a happy ending for a man for whom none could be had. 3 ½ stars