Review: Trollhunter (2010)

In Trollhunter, a Norwegian mockumentary by writer-director  André Øvreda, three college students, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Morck), and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) the camera man we barely ever see, decide to make a documentary about a reclusive man, Hans (Otto Jespersen), whom they believe to be a bear poacher. He lives in a dilapidated trailer that reeks of God knows what and has bushels of thymine and strange furs hanging all over it. The truck he drives looks like some has attacked it with an axe, repeatedly. Much to his displeasure, they shadow him, until why night he drives into the forest, gets out of the car and disappears into the woods. Excited, the three filmmakers follow him but they don’t have to wait long for Hans to come running back screaming “Troll!”

That is when the characters realize what the audience has known all along: Hans is a troll hunter.  He works for a governmental institution Troll Security Service (TSS) that is dedicated to conceal the trolls from the rest of the population and kill those who wander off the territory designated to them. But his pay is miserable and the work hours are a real horror, not to mention the occupational hazards, so he decides to let the trio film everything that happens as a way of getting back at his employer.

What ensues is a curious mix of found footage, conspiracy thriller and fantasy. Øvreda shows good understanding of the genre and uses it less to scare the audience but more to remind us what the term “mockumentary” actually means. The film is more than just nausea inducing pictures of characters running through dark woods, shrieking (although to be fair, these aren’t entirely absent). Of all the found footage horror films we’ve been treated to since the phenomenal success of Blair Witch Project (1998), Trollhunter is the most engaging which mostly due to two reasons.

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Review: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)

Product placement was invented long before Holly Golightly went window shopping at Tiffany’s, wearing the soon-to-become-iconic sleeveless Givanchy dress and Ray Bans.  In fact, the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, Wings (William A. Wellman, 1927), had paid product placement for Hershey’s Chocolate. Today it is a multi-billion dollar industry and it has caught the attention of Morgan Spurlock, the director of the controversial Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me, in which he conducted a self-experiment by eating nothing but McDonald’s food for a month. His latest feature with a mouthful of a title – Pom’s  Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold – is also built around an experiment (or a gimmick, whichever one you prefer).

This time around Spurlock wants to find out whether it is possible to make a “film about product placement funded strictly by product placement”: he will secure the film’s budget by finding sponsors that will finance the film, which in return will promote their brands. The search for the said sponsors is the central part of the film. Turns out larger brands are not particularly interested in advertising through an indie documentary, much less through a Morgan Spurlock feature (who would’ve thought). So, one by one, he approaches smaller brands that usually can’t afford to have their products placed in big Hollywood blockbusters like Iron Man, which had more than 14 brand partners.

With a wide grin (read: barely conceived smirk) on his face Spurlock pitches the idea for his movie to the brands’ representatives. They ask him questions about the film and how their brand will be portrayed in it. The whole process is, of course, being filmed and is part of the movie. Things cannot be any more meta than this.  The whole process is very entertaining, as is the rest of the film, and Spurlock himself seems to be having a very good time, too: he gets a special laugh out of a particular hair care brand, “Mane N’ Tale” — hair products that are designed to be used by both humans and horses; he also appears to be permanently surprised at the fact that any brand that takes itself seriously would be interested in cooperating with him.

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