America can add the “mockumentary” format to its list of exports. We developed the concept with movies like This is Spinal Tap and just about everything Christopher Guest has ever done, lent it out to Ricky Gervais for the British version of The Office, and fine-tuned it with the American version of The Office and a growing number of other sitcoms – not to mention horror films like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project. Now, we’ve started to send it around the world, with occasionally great results.
Take District 9 – a South African movie that used a faux-documentary to make an alien horror movie (and an allegory about immigrant reform.) Or look at The Troll Hunter — a new Norwegian horror-comedy with the potential to enjoy the stateside success District 9 saw.
The Troll Hunter stars Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen in the title role, as a weary, stoic outdoorsman suspected of poaching bears (a serious crime in Norway.) A college film crew shooting footage for a school project begins to stalk Jespersen, demanding answers to questions about his activities. They follow him as he tows his camper around the Norwegian countryside, shoot footage of him driving his truck into the woods at night, and eventually, after following him into the woods one night, convince him to let them film him in action.
After a surprising encounter with a giant monster in the woods (caught on tape, of course), Jespersen admits he’s actually a troll tracker, employed by a government troll-control agency and tasked with hiding trolls’ existence and controlling any that leave their normal habitats. He’s grown tired of the job, and decides to grant the crew access in the hopes that exposure might change the government’s approach to troll management. The student crew continues to follow him as he tracks the nocturnal beasts across Norway and ponders why they seem to be acting so agitated lately. The film is presented as an edited collection of the raw footage shot by that film crew.
While most of the screen time is devoted to Jespersen’s character, the movie does offer quick sketches of the crew – Finn, the green, overeager on-camera “talent” and leader; Kalle, the rarely-seen cameraman, and Johanna, the long-suffering sound technician. We also meet members of the bureaucracy that tracks the trolls, and comes closer and closer to discovering the hunter has allowed his secrets to be filmed.
Throughout, The Troll Hunter maintains a droll, dry sense of humor, interspersed with special effect scenes that lean on the faux-documentary style to hide their photo-unrealistic imperfections. It’s a genuinely original comedy – a rare commodity these days. The scariest thing about the film is that there’s already talk of optioning it for an American remake. See the original instead.