EIFF ’11 Day Five – The Troll Hunter & The Caller

The Troll Hunter
It’s not that often that a film’s release passes my by completely; that I’ve read nothing about it or seen no trailers up until the buzz starts coming in – it’s a rare occurrence in which I’ve heard great things about a film before even hearing its name but that was the case with The Troll Hunter so I marched in with high expectations and… well then the film started…

There’s a type of film that I’m immediately as uninterested with as brother Wakeman is with superhero movies; that every time that I hear about a new one being made I, without fail, heave a sigh and wonder “haven’t we had enough already?!” Long term Casta fans will find no surprise in the reveal that this “genre” is found footage. Imagine then my disappointment after all the positive vibes from before the film for me to see an opening blurb saying “this footage was sent to authorities and blah blah blah.”

But fear not! This is yet another example of Chris Madden’s combination of unreasonably high expectations and unfairly low tolerance levels being completely wrong! Whilst in general the use of found footage is lazily executed, this film proves there’s always room in a saturated market for people who do things the right way. The Troll Hunter has a simple set up; some students are trying to make a documentary about a suspected bear poacher, they hassle him at length and follow him deep into the woods one night only to encounter… six legged tigers! No wait… I mean… Trolls!

One of the usual problems encountered in found footage films is that they’re so bloody boring; never taking a second to really lighten up or let us get to know the characters. Not so in this case as there’s great verve, energy and humour throughout, thanks largely to the setup that three of the four main characters are students trying to film a documentary who are ridiculously excited about everything. This leads to a level of enthusiasm quite unlike anything I’ve seen in this type of film before – what’s more it’s really really funny. The tongue in cheek tone manages to pervade the entire film, right up until its closing scenes – lesser films would have dropped any sign of wit around the beginning of the third act when things inevitably start going wrong; the fact that The Troll Hunter doesn’t, and feels no detriment as a result of the maintained humour, is a true achievement.

Any problems? The trolls themselves look a bit stupid but then again… they’re trolls; what are they supposed to look like? The troll effects are pretty nifty, but mostly shot at night (sunlight kills trolls for those not too au fait with their mythology) so it does take a while until you get to see one in full, but then at least you do get to see them properly (take notes Cloverfield). Nothing major then, it’s perhaps a little long but certainly never overstays its welcome.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the already touted Hollywood remake never comes to pass, as I’m almost more than certain that everything that makes this film great will undoubtedly be lost in translation.

Should you go and see it? Absolutely; whils it’s already a sell out at the festival, it’s currently slated for a September the 9th release in the UK and is already out in most other parts of the world. Rare Exports made some good headway for Scandinavian cinema last year, but The Troll Hunter has single-handedly done enough to make me sit up and take notice of future releases.

 

The Caller
There’s a lot going on in The Caller; Rachelle Lefevre stars as Mary, a recently divorced, seemingly unemployed new inhabitant of a creepy apartment whose lights don’t seem to work properly. She’s being harassed by her ex husband (played by Liev Schreiber-a-like Ed Quinn), she’s dating a teacher of advanced mathematics and just to distance this from your standard rom-com, she also starts receiving mysterious phonecalls from a woman claiming to be living thirty years in the past. Think The Lake House with added dramatic music, a lead character who’s scared of everything, a telephone that won’t stop ringing (just stop answering the damn thing!) and Luis Guzman.

I wasn’t too taken with this film and it took me about forty minutes to figure out why. By this point we know Mary is being actively stalked and threatened by her ex husband, we know she is suffering from paranoid delusions and we know she’s getting phonecalls from a malicious woman in the past; but we don’t know to what end these things are happening. There’s no long term threat here; it’s not as if Mary has a plan to deal with any of these things, or that there’s some kind of time pressure on her to do insert *thing* here before it’s too late – she just keeps rolling with the punches until about ten minutes before the final credits roll, at which point The Caller seems to realise it needs to pull its socks up and actually deliver something.

What it does deliver happens to be a mite unsatisfying given how intriguing the premise of a time travel horror is; the film’s ending is bland and uninspired and whilst I certainly didn’t expect this to be the most competent time travel film ever, there are certain tenets that you just can’t ignore; the first of which is Chaos Theory (particularly the Butterfly Effect). To suggest that Mary’s timeline has been altered significantly throughout the course of the film, only for her to be living in the same apartment with the same abusive ex husband still trying to break through her door serves only to negate the impact that the changes in her timeline could (and indeed should) have had on her life. I really like the idea of time travel (or more specifically in this case, the idea that events in two specific time periods share a non-linear causal relationship), and it’s always disappointing to see it employed so lazily.

Whilst not everything is terrible (I actually really liked the opening credits and there’s some great voyeuristic camerawork going on early in proceedings), there’s certainly more wrong than right here; in fact it feels like there’s not enough of any one thing to keep this movie afloat – if there had been more horror, more time travel or even more romance, this could have risen above the type of mediocrity it has seemingly assigned itself to. In my opinion, it’s always better for a film to do one thing really well than lots of things kind of well.

Should you go and see it? Nope – nothing special going on here; it flirts with time travel in as bare bones fashion as possible, isn’t particularly scary or imaginative and will leave you feeling massively uninspired and underwhelmed.

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