It’s a mark of just how retarded we are in the American-speaking world that André Øvredal’s Troll Hunter got mixed reviews in his home of Norway, but that we’re raving about it in the conventional West. Of course, domestic misanthropy always comes into play, and Trolls aren’t quite the novelty for the Norwegians as they are for us. It’s a bit like if somebody made a mockumentary about Piskies: Sure, in London N1, a couple of decent jokes well-played would have Kya and Xena dragging Josh and Alex down to the Screen on the Green in seconds flat, while the Penzance audience may feel a little tired of and patronised by at the whole idea.
Few films, of course, are totally original (You could attribute Inception to Lewis Carroll if you really wanted to be insanely over-critical) and Troll Hunter is no exception. Everybody’s banging on about the Blair Witch Project but it reminds me more of Man Bites Dog, the extraordinary Belgian mockumentary which kind of set the tone in 1992.
It must be great to be Belgian. Nice jolly blonde girls. Waffles. Spoorloos presumably running 24/7 on cable. Proper Kriek. Mind you – that’s probably what the Belgians say about us. ‘It must be great to be British. Gorgeous, winsome Kate Winslets everywhere. Bacon and Eggs every morning. Remains of the Day running 24 hours on Channel Four. Proper Bitter.’ Then they turn up on holiday and get run over by a bendy-bus in the middle of a riot.
Anyway, Belgium: 1992: Man Bites Dog. Man Bites Dog is an amazing film which anyone who enjoyed Troll Hunter and is a reasonably unimpressionable adult should see next. You spend lot of Man Bites Dog wondering who, if anyone, survives, and, maybe I’m gullible and slow-witted, but Troll Hunter was the same for me.
One of the best things about Troll Hunter is the acting, which if anything is better than the good stuff in Man Bites Dog. They’re all great, and it just goes to show again how many of the best actors, stage and screen, are comics. I’m thinking Peter Sellers, Cary Grant, with Harry Enfield, Rik Mayall, and that tit with the beehive as obvious embarrassing exceptions, although whether Russell Brandt is even a comic, let’s just all hope History will soon judge.
Otto Jespersen is great, Hans Morten Hansen is like a funny Simon Pegg, Tomas Alf Larsen and Johanna Morck make fantastic childish students and Robert Stoltenberg’s walk on as an industrious Polish bear-catcher (Why make problem when there is no problem we want make?) is a knock-out.
Anything missing? Well, it’s not all that exciting – but unless you’re pre-teen and easily lured into believing in Trolls – which would be ironic given the premise of the film – you’re not going to teeter too keenly on the edge of your seat at something intended as a knowing joke from start to finish anyway. The Norwegians aren’t known for sophisticated humour – if I’m still even allowed to say that in our age of global corporate Fahrenheit 451 inspired conformity – and it’s probably worth quickly noting as I itch to get the hell out of the office and play Tennis, that for people who don’t know Norway or any Norwegians, the existence of Trolls is the standard national gag. Some gags are best in translation. And, of course, you should never explain one afterwards.