“Thomas: In a sense, you’re a true Norwegian hero. / Hans: No, you’re wrong about that. There’s nothing heroic about what I do. It’s dirty work.”– Otto Jespersen & Glenn Erland Tosterud in Trollhunter
The story goes like this…
Several years ago, I was at my in-laws in NY and was speaking to my sister-in-law Kaitlyn about a horror movie I had watched. Kaitlyn, like myself, enjoys watching horror movies. It’s a fun genre, which I detailed in my blog post from last week, that allows you to tune out the outside world. You watch, get entertained by the film’s stupidity, and enjoy yourself in the cinematic fiction. Still, not all horror movies are created equal, and I do not enjoy slasher and horridly violent films. As you all learned last week, I like monsters, zombies, and horror mixed with comedic elements. The movie I was telling Kaitlyn fits into the latter category and is called Trollhunter.
While telling Kaitlyn about the film, my father-in-law walked into the room and picked up our conversation. While pouring some iced-tea, he chimed in, “Are you talking about Trollhunter?” The moment I heard Pat ask that, my mouth dropped to the ground in shock and disbelief. Had my father-in-law, Mr. ESPN, had he seen Trollhunter? I knew of no one else who had seen this movie but are you telling me Pat had? So, I asked him. “Pat, are you thinking about the Norwegian found-footage horror film?” He responds, “ya with a guy hunting trolls!!” All I could muster at this point was, “holy shit, Pat’s seen Trollhunter!”
Thinking back to that moment, I can’t help but laugh. How did my cool and calm father-in-law see such a random movie? I mean, I hang out with Pat often when I am in NY. We watch sports together and sometimes a random show on Netflix. Still, I had never known his taste in specific movie genres, so I was shocked and amazed when he said he had seen it. Therefore, with this blog, I feel like now is an excellent time to consider the movie one more time. To do so, I need Pat’s reaction. No better way to spend time chatting with my father-in-law than discussing the film and exploring it together. Welcome to Trollhunter rewind with Pat!
A couple of weeks ago, I asked Pat if he would be willing to rewatch the movie, answer a few questions, award a couple of winners of some categories, and chat about it over FaceTime. He quickly agreed, and the other day, we had our chat. Pat’s thoughts on this film are excellent and insightful. I am excited to share my thoughts and Pat’s overall feelings as well, as they relate to the film Trollhunter. So, let’s get to it!
Here is the IMDB synopsis: “When bears are found dead in Norway, students from Volda University (Thomas, Johanna and cameraman Kalle) decide to investigate. They stalk the trail of the mysterious hunter Hans, expecting to find an explanation for the killings. The reluctant Hans tries to flee from the youngsters but then agrees to let them film him in action, provided they follow his orders. Soon the trio of students learns that Hans is actually a troll hunter working for a secret government agency. Further, several dangerous trolls have escaped from their territory and Hans is assigned to eliminate them.”
Before I get into the categories and Pat’s overall thoughts about the film, and his category award winners, let me give you my comprehensive analysis of the film, plot, and critical details. Then, I will focus on the “Most Rewatchable” scene, “Oh Shit!” moment of the film, which actor overacted or under-acted, who won the film, and a couple more categories. I will attempt to give as few spoilers as possible if those reading this wish to see the movie for the first time. I will not tell the film’s ending, but rather focus on those categories and awards above and Pat’s thoughts without giving away the entire story. Even so, some spoilers may inadvertently appear, so be forewarned.
This movie is a foreign language found footage film written/directed by André Øvredal, who would gain acclaim through The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) and his work with Guillermo del Toro on Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019), both of which he directed. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the first English language film and probably his most critically acclaimed, with individuals like Stephen King raining praise on it. Even so, Trollhunter is his first major written/directed project, and what a way to begin a film career. It is fun, creative, and, at several points, terrifying, but not in a shock scare kind of way.
Trollhunter is an excellent and enjoyable ride and plunges you into a type of film you may not consider. It is not in English, and thankfully not dubbed. Unless you understand the language, you will have to read the subtitles, but I never mind this. If one can shelve apprehension, they will be able to open themselves to seeing some unique and entertaining films. That is what Pat did when he selected the movie to watch for the first time, without a care that it wasn’t in English. He wanted to watch a unique and exciting film. It is a perfect, “well I can’t find anything to watch, so I will give this a chance,” kind of movie. Within 10 minutes, you are hooked, captivated, and settle in to experience the found footage ride.
Trollhunter, released in Norway on October 29, 2010, is around 100 minutes in running time, which is a smooth experience. It cost approximately 2.1 million US and made about 56,000 US dollars. So, not a movie that would challenge Avengers: Endgame for global box office success, but the movie rocked on its meager budget. It is rated 7.0 on IMDB and 81% Fresh, critics ranking, on Rotten Tomatoes. I find both of these rankings appropriate, even if personally low, but I can understand the scale, as horror found footage films are generally not highly praised or ranked. But, Trollhunter deserves far more recognition and needs to ascend to some level of cult fame. Sure, it can be campy sometimes, and some of the jokes don’t translate well, and the CGI is now dated ten years later, but it is great fun. It takes concepts that are pure horror, unique tropes seen in fantasy and science fiction, camera work that resembles a thriller, and a storyline and ending that exhibits a drama. Did I mention it has some moments that are freaking hilarious? Well, more about that later. Overall, as you will see, this movie can easily stay with you, and a perfect film for October and might inspire you to dress as the main character Hans for Halloween. Let’s make that happen! But first, let’s dive deeper into the film.
As I said in the synopsis above, the movie focuses on three college kids seeking to interview a suspected bear poacher but are surprised to learn that Hans, their subject, works for the government as a Trollhunter. The weird part is how believable the plot is and its consistency throughout the entire film. How can a movie about trolls seem plausible? Well, it’s how it incorporated the documentary style of the film. Pat had some fascinating thoughts about how the film held its ground. He argued that the film successfully mixed several genres, which, as I said above, is a solid argument. He felt it was a hybrid of the Blair Witch Project, a Documentary, and the Area 51 conspiracy. I love that “take” and agree with Pat’s sentiments on the film’s overall feel. Pat is not a horror genre fan, but he thought that this cinema style kept his attention while also entertaining him with the acting, direction, and cinematography.
Overall, Pat liked it and enjoyed watching it for the second time. When I asked him to watch it, he said that a second watch was required to jog his memory, but the scenes he liked the most in his rewatch where those he remembered from his first screening. I agree. Several scenes instantly came back to me when watching for the second time. Pat did mention that Trollhunter is not a movie his wife Mary would ever watch. And if she did watch it, you would hear a “oh for God’s sake” as she walked out. A movie not for everyone, but Pat was all in, 100%. He enjoyed how the film was not true to the horror genre but an entertaining look at the life of a guy who hunts trolls. Pat bought it and threw himself into the story, arguing that Hans was a guy who looked like someone who hunted trolls. He, too, loved the film’s directing and had a fun, enjoyable, and memorable rewatch. So, a Hunter, camera crew, a government conspiracy, and colossal ass Trolls. With Pat and me checked in for a Trollhunter rewatch, let’s talk about some of the categories and, in the process, learn more about the film, with few spoilers.
Most Rewatchable Scene
The category I like to start with is the “Most Rewatchable Scene.” Again, for those who are new to my blog or have not read my previous film blog posts, first do so, and second, I did not create most of these categories. My favorite movie podcast is The Rewatchables, from Bill Simmons’ The Ringer and owned by Spotify. I have mentioned this podcast in previous blog posts such as, POP! Culture on Repeat and Cinematic Nostalgia, so read those posts for more of my thoughts on that podcast and the categories.
With that said, I will start with my nominees and conclude with Pat’s favorite and most rewatchable scene. Now, I preface a rewatchable scene in this way to Pat, who is a huge Jets fan. I told him that his scene selection should be one he would be willing to watch rather than changing the channel to put on the Jets’ game. Meaning, Trollhunter is on a channel, and this “specific” scene comes up, so you drop everything and sit, watch, and wait till it is over before switching to the game. Pat not turning on a Jets game, or college basketball game for that matter, would be a “10” on the “holy shit” is that happening scale, so it seemed an appropriate measure and analogy for this category. Pat enjoyed the category, considered his cinematic scene options, and chose his Trollhunter moment. His choice was pure perfection!
I usually come up with around six or seven nominees for the “Most Rewatchable scene” category. My first nominee is when the three Volda College students Thomas (the lead reporter), Kalle (camera guy), and Johanna (boom mic operator), who have been following Hans for several days, eventually track him down and run into him in the woods. While he is surprised to see the three college students, he screams, “Trolls!!!” and they all take off. It is one of the shorter nominated scenes but is intense, funny, and terrifying as the four of them take off, and the camera shakes, is dropped, and captures haunting sounds. Overall, an excellent opening scene for the interactions between the college students and Hans.
My second nominated scene is when the four of them go on their first troll hunt. By this time, Hans has invited the students to join him and document him, for reasons I will discuss later. Pat thoroughly enjoyed this scene, including a few of the dialogue lines, because it is the first time you see one of the trolls, a three-headed troll called a “Tooserlad.” They see it and run, and as with the first rewatchable scene, the “troll chase scene” is terrifying as Kelle uses night vision mode on the camera to capture the eerie movements of the massive troll, which they all recently learned are real and get back to Hans car. The “Tooserland” troll is very creepy, and while the graphics are slightly dated, it works well with the sounds and dark imagery. I liked the choppy footage and the sounds of trees being thrown by the troll as they ran. It is very disorienting, but I liked that. The scene ends with everyone making their way out of the woods and Hans using the lights on his jeep to turn the troll to stone. The scene shows how much of a badass Hans is and a troll hunter, and pretty damn good at it. Han’s line, “Fairy tales don’t usually match reality,” was perfectly given in this scene and nailed the moment’s tempo. It’s a more extended scene but is crucial to the entire plot and easily rewatchable!
My third & fourth nominee is slightly connected because they involve no trolls, but are all about trolls. The first is the short interview that Thomas has with Hans the morning after the first troll encounter. It is shot exceptionally well and staged with the camera fixed on Han’s face, who crushes the scene and maintains his stoic, yet determined personality. It’s a short scene, but Thomas asks who he works for and why he does it. For this part, Hans appears like an overworked government employee who gets paid too little, has no time off, never gets a bonus or overtime pay. This was a sentiment that Pat shares. He also loves this scene, as he said he liked how Hans is a regular guy doing what he feels is everyday work, hunting trolls. According to Pat, Hans is the “everyman.” He works hard, gets no credit, no fair pay, and is now ready to unload, and the college students are willing and eager to listen. Pat and I agree that there is a great comedy in that concept. The writer and director are making the idea of Trollhunter appear as real as possible and are succeeding with their found-footage/documentary-style filming and how Otto Jespersen, Hans, takes control of the scenes and makes the viewer believe he is that person.
A similar scene, which is my fourth nominee, is the breakfast scene, occurring shortly after the interview, and it is here where Hans takes his game higher. Again, a short scene, but Hans is spilling the beans over breakfast about everything he does for the three college reporters and doesn’t give a shit about the consequences of his actions. He is fed up with his employer and wants the truth to get out. So, in this scene, he tells them all about trolls, where they live, how many types there are, how long they live, what they eat, and what his role is in stopping them from roaming close to inhabited areas, and of course, how the government covers this up, keeping the truth from the Norwegian people. Pat said it’s a great little scene but shot with care to allow Hans to come off, as disgruntled yet likable and ready to take control of his narrative. With the three college students documenting this, the dirty work he does will finally be recognized. Based on the fact the film is a “found footage film,” means he will get his wish, but at what cost?
My fifth nominee is another interaction with a troll, but not a large three-headed mountain troll, like the first interaction. This time it was a bridge troll, which allowed the director/writer André Øvredal to play around with old myths and fairy tales. Øvredal crafted an interaction between Hans and the vicious bridge troll, which required some goats, Christian blood, and a troll explosion. A scene that has both comedic, mythical, and horrific elements is one that will always be on my list for a rewatchable scene nominee! Pat agreed, as this scene was one of his favorites and will appear later; therefore, I won’t say too much now.
My last nominee is the scene Pat nominated. He argued that the most rewatchable moment from Trollhunter is when Hans, and the three students, encounter numerous trolls in their lair. According to Pat, this was arguably the best scene in the film, and I agree. There are several reasons why this scene is so good. It’s cryptic, thrilling, funny, even if slightly cheesy (a troll does pass gas), and has some of the best camera work of the entire film. The scene is very disorienting, which is essential for found footage films, but it is one of the more intense interactions between Hans, the film students, and the trolls. Pat said he had to watch this scene numerous times, both out of enjoyment and to see if he had missed anything. He believed that it was the one scene that essentially summed up the whole movie.
I loved talking to Pat about this scene. He came up with a few important points about the camera work and its importance to the film and Hans character. According to Pat, following his near-death at the trolls’ hands, who were awoken in their lair, Hans has nothing to lose. He seeks to get as much of his profession and experience on the college students’ “film” as he searches for and eventually battles the massive troll, which has become incredibly aggressive. As Pat argued, the cave/lair scene set up the film’s finale and was the most rewatchable scene in the film and one he and I could watch repeatedly. The color, use of light and dark elements, and levity and terror of the scene are perfectly constructed, easily making it the film’s best moment.
Oh SHIT! Moment
The “Oh SHIT! Moment” is a fun pondering I posed for Pat and is pretty short in what it requires as a possible concluding selection. It allowed us to dive into some of the rewatchable scenes, but look for those brief moments that either shocked, terrified, or simply blew us away. With this “moment” in the film, Pat and I were once again in total agreement. It was one of the scenes I nominated for most rewatchable, but not in its entirety. Instead, we both chose when Hans goes up against the aggressive bridge troll. It’s a pretty badass interaction, and you instinctively know what will occur, but still, and Pat agreed; when the troll battles him on the bridge and knocks him out, we both screamed, Oh Shit! So, a pretty easy category for this film.
Although we both agreed on the bridge scene as our number one, “Oh Shit! Moment,” I did have two other short/quick scenes that I wanted to mention. In our most rewatchable scene, the collision with the cave/lair trolls, there is a brief second at the end of the scene when Hans fires light flashes at the trolls as the group flees towards the opening of the cave. As the camera swung around and the light flashes bounced off the predators, it was a memorable “Oh Shit! Moment” from the film and could quickly have taken the top spot. It was a perfectly crafted scene. Another scene that I threw into the pile for consideration was when the audience observed a troll for the first time. So, pretty much an “Oh Shit! Moment” always involved a scene with a troll, and usually Hans doing something badass. Nothing wrong with that!
Greatest “Heat Check”
Since Pat is new to the film rewatch categories, I asked him to consider which actor was absolutely fantastic, crushed all their scenes, or produced a substantial “heat check.” Usually, this category looks for an actor who is in a limited number of scenes. For more information on what I consider a movie “Heat Check,” check out an earlier blog post, Top 6 Movie “Heat Checks”. But, for my discussion with Pat, I threw out the requirements, intending for Pat to observe the film and acting performances as a whole and the individual who crushed their scenes with greater precision. Pat did not disappoint.
Pat selected Hans for the “Heat Check” Award for Trollhunter. Hans is a perfect choice, and Pat provided flawless, thought-provoking analysis and reasoning. There are several reasons I agree with Pat’s pick. One, this is a found footage film with limited actors, so there is a smaller pool to choose from. Therefore, the individual who crushes their scenes compared to those around them deserves that kind of recognition. Two, Hans was a badass, and Pat agreed. Using cinematic justification, Pat argues that Otto Jespersen, the actor portraying Hans, really went all in. He made the film’s style, found footage/documentary/horror, work correctly since you believed he was that character. Hans was gruff, angry at his employer, upset about not being paid overtime or his bonus, and had had enough of doing the TSS dirty work and wanted the secret exposed. He was a Troll Hunter, a Norwegian hero.
As Pat said, Jespersen made it seem like Troll Hunting was not only real for a viewing audience, but another day at the office for Hans. The way Hans spoke, how he presented himself, and how he conducted business were all in line with Jespersen’s near-perfect performance. Pat noted that Jespersen’s facial expressions sold the character. He was blown away by the scene when Hans talks about a troll family’s massacre, in which he was a participant. In that scene, Hans showed himself to be a reluctant and remorseful player, or pawn, in the government’s efforts to control the troll population’s erratic movement, as well as secret existence. Jespersen sold that sense of reality, and, as Pat said, he needed to do this if the movie was going to work, and while we know it’s a fictional film, selling the concept of this as found footage is vital.
The “Overacting” performance is a pretty simple category. The award goes to whoever was underwhelming or overacted beyond comprehension. I felt like Kelle, the cameraman who freaks out in the troll cave/lair, exhibited a performance of that quality. He dialed it up a notch and went a little too far, but he was not my number one. My number one was the same as Pat, who argued that Hans Morten Hansen, who portrayed Finn, the TSS Director, won the category with “no contest.” Hansen, Pat concludes, underperformed from a viewing standpoint. Pat said it best when he stated that Hansen was blah. His facial expressions came off as moody, but not in a convincing or supportive way. He didn’t sell the part or illustrate the characteristics of someone in his position of power.
This category is self-explanatory. Pat loved this topic. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy selecting their favorite quotes from a fun movie with moments of great dialogue. I know, this is not Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan, but André Øvredal brings forth some good lines. Pat’s analysis will begin our dive into some of the film’s best lines. Pat found the best quotes also to be the most humorous. His selection came from one of the first scenes when the college students followed Hans to see the three-headed troll. Kelle, the cameraman, says, “If we run into a bunch of inbred pig farmers, your ass is first.” Kind of a blatant Deliverance reference, but perfectly timed and delivered, showing that these college film students are not fully aware of the dangers awaiting them. Pat thought it was brilliantly funny and made the scene work. It was so dark and nervous, so it showed the college kids were scared but used humor to help coup with their trepidation. Great scene, well-delivered quote, and Pat got the “best quote” category rolling fast!
When the prime minister talks about the power grids and accidentally mentions trolls, which makes Finn roll his eyes, which is the last line of the movie, is Pat’s second favorite quotable moment from the film. Here is what the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said at a televised press conference.
“Few people find power grids attractive. I certainly don’t. Norwegians are pro-electricity but against power lines. That won’t work in the long run. Norway has trolls, so more power lines are needed. That’s just the way it is.”– Trollhunter
I am not going to lie; I was immensely proud of Pat for his quote choices. They are solid, and each has a tremendous power, which illustrates their points at those specific moments in the film. I have a couple of nominees, and I will try to be as brief as possible. My first is when the three college students meet up with Hans in the dark forest, and he runs up to them and screams, “Trolls!!” It is short but perfect and illustrated a real dread at the moment. The second is when Hans is angry at the college students for having lied that they were not Christian since the trolls could smell them, which Hans had warned from the start would happen if they believed in God. The next quote is the conversation between Hans and Thomas, which illustrated both dread and humor effectively.
“Hans: Why the hell did you say that none of you were Christian? The way that troll sniffed around, obviously one of you believes in God. / Thomas: I don’t believe in God. I sang in a church teen choir, but that’s because my parents forced me to.”– Otto Jespersen & Glenn Erland Tosterud in Trollhunter
This interaction underscores a significant plot point of the film and carries into one of my other favorite quotes.
“Thomas: In fairy tales, trolls wear clothes and talk like people – they’re just like people. / Hans: Fairy tales are for kids. Trolls are animals. Predators. They eat, shit and mate. Eat anything they can.”– Otto Jespersen & Glenn Erland Tosterud in Trollhunter
Some of the best lines from the film come from moments between Hans and Thomas. The last of favorite lines I wish to include is both short and simple, yet was uttered the morning after Hans killed the three-headed troll, which had turned to stone. Hans hit it with a sledgehammer, thus making it collapse and shatter. The next day, Hans looked at the kids and said, “Anyone need some gravel?” I thought that scene was genuinely funny as hell and inserted perfectly in the film.
Those are the best quotes from the movie, but I agree with Pat that the “pig farmers” quote and delivery of it were one of the best phrases from the film. Still, all of these quotes are genuinely number ones, so we will call it a six-way tie, four from me, two from Pat. It only seems fair!
Who Won the Movie?
Selecting a winner for “who won the movie” may seem like a category that should automatically go to the best actor, but not so fast. I asked Pat who, after watching this film, does he think won the day. While my first inclination was Otto Jespersen, who played Hans, Pat made an argument that I quickly supported. He argued that director/writer André Øvredal won the film. Pat said that the film’s style, which presented itself as a documentary/horror/science fiction blending, made this a fun and captivating cinematic experience. As I said, Pat is not a fan of horror but is a fan of a well-constructed film, and I am in the same boat. We want a unique story and a thrilling movie that will keep us on the edge of our seats. Øvredal achieved this and began his career with an entertaining film. When you watch this film and consider it again later, which Pat and I did, you don’t think of the actors. You think of the movie in its entirety, and that’s because of Øvredal.
Could this be a 10-Episode Netflix or Hulu Series?
Both Pat and I believe that this film would work well as a miniseries on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or anything that streams content. Get more backstory on Hans, the TSS, more in-depth consideration of each college student, and more history of the trolls. I think you could easily make two or three ten-episode seasons based on this format. You could do what Lost did, or The Leftovers, where they throw in a fantastic and emotionally impactful score or well-thought-out backstories for the main characters. If you told me it was premiering tomorrow, my DVR would be ready, and the popcorn would assuredly be prepared.
Well, thank you so much for reading about Trollhunter brought to you by me, The Wicked Traveled Historian, and my father-in-law Pat. We both enjoyed this movie when we first watched it, and I was thrilled when Pat agreed to watch it again and have a brief chat with me about his answers to the categories we covered. Pat is an amazing man and father-in-law. He had no problem taking the time to talk with me about a movie that I enjoyed and was excited to watch again. I always thought it was so cool and random that Pat had seen the film. Seeing what he ultimately thought about Trollhunter was the icing on the cake. Pat’s analysis and feelings on the film were both surprising and impressive. He observed some key pieces that I missed, so I enjoyed this movie rewind. Hopefully, Pat will join me again in the future, and you will follow as we rewind the tape and rewatch another thrilling movie.