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Trollhunter

Year: 2010
Production Co: Filmkameratene A/S
Director: André Øvredal
Writer: André Øvredal
Cast: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen

I can never remember all films that have this aspect – the 1976 remake of King Kong is one, several older zombie films had it and Jaws and Jurassic Park were undoubtedly built on it. Curiously it's more prevalent in short horror fiction.

I call it The Buildup, and as the name suggests it's the process of moving the audience closer to the big reveal/monster/featured attraction by steps, introducing an exotic location, an enigmatic character or an otherworldly technology that's going to be part of the journey.

Each subsequent step then leads us to the object of allure, becoming ever stranger, ever further from the world we know until we're beautifully primed to see the scary, ethereal or fantastic.

When the three headed troll first bursts through the treeline as film students Thomas (Tosterud), Johanna (Mørck) and Kalle (Larsen) look on in horror, it's a perfect moment of payoff after The Buildup. They've followed the silent, surly Hans (Jespersen) to try and learn his secret, pierced ever deeper into the beautiful but desolate countryside of Norway, seen the destruction left by something huge and terrible, and heard the most outlandish stories about creatures that only exist in fairy stories. It's up there with the first glimpse of the tyrannosaur's head rising through the trees with the goat in its mouth from Jurassic Park.

It's modern day Norway, as cynical and realistic as any other part of the world, and three university film students are in the middle of a project to investigate a series of killings attributed to bears. They find a mysterious local man who lives like a hermit in a 4WD and trailer and surrounds himself with strange accoutrements and who refuses to talk to them, leaving in the middle of the night on strange journeys into the woods where flashes of light and the rumbling roars of something awful fill the air.

Like all good POV filmmakers they sneak away after him on one of his nightly missions and when he bursts out of the forest yelling 'troll!', things take a nasty turn. Like the first monster sequences in An American Werewolf in London, we see almost nothing of the monster but the effect it has on its surroundings, further amping up the anticipation of seeing it.

With the excitement over and their car wrecked by the passage of something they don't want to believe exists, Hans agrees to their request. He'll let them film him at work hunting giant trolls for a secret government agency as long as they do exactly what he says and get the story out – several have roamed out of their territory and its his job to track and eliminate them, a task he has no stomach for any more.

The troll sequences are all CGI for obvious reasons, but the film has such a great sense of scope that apart from a few scenes where it look a little flimsy like the bridge attack, it's a great big screen adventure. It's almost easy to forget the whole film's done in the POV handycam style that's still so popular (including the obligatory infrared sequence).

The script does a great job of making the rest of the story interesting, particularly the veterinarian colleague of Hans' who provides the scientific background for the mythical hallmarks of troll lore. It even manages to slide in a wry reference to the nursery rhyme as Hans leads three goats onto a bridge to coax his quarry out.

It's thrilling, well written, very well directed and goes from funny to scary and back again. Watch it before the inevitable US remake, which has already been optioned by Chris Columbus' 1492 Entertainment.

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