Each Thursday this October at Inverse, I will watch a horror film with Winston Cook-Wilson, a horror film fan and expert, and talk about as much of the movie as much as I can get through — I scare easily. This is Scare Season.
David Turner: I finished the movie! Troll Hunter, to be fair, was not exceptionally frightening after the initial troll scene, but I still covered my screen a couple moments cause a small jump scare and I would’ve been ready to call it quits. Luckily nothing pushed me far.
But I guess I should say a bit about the movie, which is a found-footage film that follows a few college kids in Norway following a troll hunter. I’ll admit that the found-footage conceit was a bit of stretch after the first 30 minutes, but I appreciated that it did allow for the trolls to appear far more terrifying than just a traditional rendering would be. But generally I do enjoy ridiculous monsters and giant ones at that, so what about the film made it your first choice to start off this marathon?
Winston Cook-Wilson: Well, I’m happy you picked it first: I think it’s a good way to ease into a regimen of horror movies. Most of the earliest and most popular horror films were monster movies — from King Kong to The Wolfman to, you know, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. In the ‘50s, the first golden age of B-horror, you had a lot of stuff like The Blob, the original version of The Fly, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. So if we want to consider this kind of a tour through different categories of horror films, where better to start?
Lon Chaney prepping for The Wolfman (1941)
Also, I think Troll Hunter is one of the best found-footage horror (or pseudo-horror) movies I’ve ever seen, though not the scariest (That would probably be Paranormal Activity 2). Even outside just being a good genre film, I think Troll Hunter is just very well-paced and acted. The camerawork (even though it’s supposed to be sloppy and unplanned) is deceptively skilled, building tension expertly. The special effects (those hazy-looking trolls) are also pretty budget-level fantastic, though I’m normally not one to freak out about special effects.
It’s also really funny. The constant troll talk — the explanations of the different species, the use of “troll stench” to keep them away, the difference between when they blow up and when they turn to stone — is so earnestly delivered, and makes me laugh every time. So I don’t know — the other films will certainly be way scarier, but I thought this was fun, and thought you’d enjoy it. Also, it’s got some good demonic vibes, which I know you’re into.
DT: Hail Satan The Dark Lord! The paranoia around a Christian man’s blood certainly got a few laughs out of me. The film does a great job in establishing a troll world, where clearly what was shown in the movie was not the only evidence of trolls that exist in this world. There was also so much troll lore given in the film that I became frustrated with the found footage conceit, because I’d be like “Well where the fuck are all of these monstrous trolls never seen by people?” Just like this cannot be the first time these creatures were caught on film. I might be a bit too wrapped up in that particular idea, but it grated on me. Maybe I need more “troll stench” to not be so particular.
WCW: I feel like this is a major problem with found-footage for a lot of people: the believability part. I mean this mostly in terms of like “Why would they still be filming?” But the documentary treatment to me makes the most sense, and is usually the best — The Visit, a fave horror of mine from this year, does the same thing. But yeah, it’s totally unbelievable that people would not have seen these trolls, even though they’re holing up in the most remote parts of Norway. I feel like there’s an unexpected/funny moment when you hear them talking about trolls, and getting these initial explanations, and then you see it storm out of the forest for the first time and it’s taller than the trees. Because when you think “trolls” in general, you don’t think like crazy giants. I think they did a good job making the trolls as insane as possible, in a cartoonish way. One of my fave parts is definitely the turning-to-stone moment.
I do love that there’s the added element of the government conspiracy to cover it up — given how huge these things are, they’d have to go to crazy lengths. The idea that just that one goofy dude is responsible for all that is pretty silly, but in a way that I enjoyed. In a way, the plot of Troll Hunter would be a perfect conceit for an X-Files episode.
But probably in general, to really descend into the dark universe of horror, you have to accept that nothing is really going to make any sense. That’s the thing about slasher movies, for instance — why the fuck would you hide from the guy in the attic, out of which there is no real way out? It’s all about suspending disbelief, though I think — in the ones I picked — you’ll be scared enough to not give a shit about the whys and wherefores.
DT: Truth. Conceptualizing this as a X-Files episode could’ve made me appreciate it more. I was left watching the film with a desire for more closure than I think it ever planned to offer, which I should’ve just accepted that not every question would be answered. I appreciated all of the twists and dives the film took with troll mythology to the intense government conspiracy. That is all the kind of fodder that would make for a great sequel, TV series or really anything that wanted to expand on the fiction.
The movie was good, so please take my over-thinking as just wanting to dive deeper in the lore of a film I enjoyed! I do want to give a lot of credit to the trolls themselves, who, though nasty, felt grounded in this world even though I find it hard to believe a 200 ft creature could just be roaming the Nordic frozen tundra unseen. Again, my suspension of disbelief cannot be fully suspended. That frustration I hold is not directed at the movie, but myself. I’m sorry Troll Hunter, I appreciate your investigative work, but I cannot deal with how much I cannot believe it to be true.
WCW: A legitimate concern, and I understand it. Perhaps the found-footage genre is not for you, although I would venture to say that, if you can avoid turning them off out of fright, the Paranormal Activitys are enjoyable. They have a lot of haters, but I really think it’s one of the best recent horror franchise (certainly better than the Saw movies, outside of the first one). I recommended the Paranormal that is on Netflix as a possibility for this series, even though it’s probably the least good, because I enjoy all of them. The first two, though, will definitely scare you enough to overlook logical inconsistencies.
In terms of undeniably frightening monster movies — a hard thing for any filmmaker to pull off — I would definitely recommend The Descent. It takes place with frightening, blind, Gollum-like creatures in a deep, dark cavern, and includes some of the best jump scares of any horror movies of the past 15 years of so. So recommended viewing if you, or anyone reading, wants to go deeper with monster movies. But for the purposes of keeping our horror overview for the month diverse, David, I think we won’t go further into this subgenre in this series, disqualifying vampires and zombies, of course. Also, I want you to legit be scared.
DT: I’m excited for whatever dark path this takes us down next week!