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Troll Hunter: Horror with a Playful Look at Religion

It surely isn't for everybody and could certainly offend some folks, but Troll Hunter takes a different approach to representing religion in a film.

Jimmy J
Jimmy J
December 31, 2021
3 / 5
INCLUVIE SCORE
4.5 / 5
MOVIE SCORE

Troll Hunter is a 2011 found footage "mockumentary" horror film written and directed by André Øvredal. The story follows a group of students making a documentary about a supposed bear poacher, Hans, who in reality turns out to have been hunting trolls, working for a secret section of the government called the TSS, or "Troll Security Service".

Troll Hunter is a horror film for anybody who wants horror in the passenger seat to comedy (and gorgeous scenery of the Norwegian countryside), as it has an emphasis on jokes and lightheartedness over actual terror. It has tense moments and it has its share of violence, but overall is a funny faux-documentary with plenty of ribbing on the Norwegian government.

Otto Jespersen and Johanna Mørck in Troll Hunter

Otto Jespersen and Johanna Mørck in Troll Hunter

To date, it's one of my favorite films solely because it fits my favorite niche: horror-comedy. Nothing soothes my soul like being able to laugh at dark, violent moments. Movies like Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Krampus (2015) let you indulge in horrific scenes without all the serious baggage, which isn't why I'm watching a movie. I'm watching to feel good.

Troll Hunter Combines Fairy Tales and Modern Day Realism

Much of Troll Hunter's lore and plot come from actual Norwegian fairy tales and mythology incorporated into modern, realistic settings. For instance, the trolls in the film die when exposed to sunlight, an ancient belief on how to kill a troll (seen in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)). Hans the troll hunter accomplishes this via huge UV spotlights attached to his truck.

Hans (Otto Jespersen) defeating a troll with his UV lights

Hans (Otto Jespersen) defeating a troll with his UV lights

More interestingly, the film carries over a line from many old fairy tales and poems about trolls, such as Childe Rowland by Joseph Jacobs. You may recognize the line:

"Fee, fi, fo, fum. I smell the blood of a Christian man."

Depending on the text and translation, sometimes this line reads "I smell the blood of an Englishman.". But Troll Hunter takes the former line literally.

When the students begin traveling with Hans, he asks the three of them: "Are any of you Christian?" much to their confusion, and they all answer in the negative. It turns out that this old fairy tale line is true and the trolls can literally smell you if you're Christian. Which ends up costing the cameraperson, Kalle, his life when they're later trying to hide from the trolls and it happens that he earlier lied -- he's Christian.

Undaunted, the students invite a new cameraperson to continue on this journey with them. Her name is Malika, a Muslim girl. The remaining students are uncertain and turn to Hans asking, "Is Muslim okay?" or, in other words, "Can trolls smell Muslims?".

Hans simply shrugs and says, "I honestly don't know. We'll see what happens.".

There's a Middle Ground Between Serious and Mean

Urmila Berg-Domaas as Malika Malay-Olsen in 'Troll Hunter'

Urmila Berg-Domaas as Malika Malay-Olsen in 'Troll Hunter'

They never actually get to find out, but I love this little side plot. Making fairy tales' actual truth is fun and cheeky and including another religion in these fictional rules is oddly inclusive. It lets you know that this is for fun and not to be taken too seriously.

It surely isn't for everybody and could certainly offend some folks, but Troll Hunter takes a different approach to representing religion in a film. Religious representation usually takes one of two routes.

  1. Represented seriously and respectfully
  2. Mocked and jeered at

This movie takes a middle ground, where sure it's lightly joked with...but lightly. It's mentioned casually like someone's hair color or clothing preferences. It's put in a humorous spotlight, but not to be outwardly mean or disrespectful.

This was especially fun for somebody who was raised by Norwegian Christians. Although I am no longer Christian, it was great to take a look at my family's religion and heritage being tossed casually into the movie's mythos. It was funny, but not so harsh that I can't watch this movie with my family.

Personally, I think that this sort of representation is just what a lot of religion needs right now. With many religious beliefs being put under scrutiny because of judgment or hate towards marginalized communities, it's important to show that religion can be joked with. It makes it more normal and approachable.

I know a lot of people who are outright angry with religion. But I also know a lot of people who are confused because they want their religion and they want their own beliefs and lives. People who are gay or trans and still want to be Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. Representation in this light finds a middle ground that makes religion more comfortable for many but doesn't outright mock it.

I'm sure a lot of people disagree, but this is how I like many subjects approached. If you can joke around with LGBTQ+ issues but not be mean or offensive, I love it. Humor is what my life revolves around and I think there's a tasteful way to tease anything and everything.

Just ask my brother. He'll tell you that nothing's taboo for me.

Troll Hunter: Horror with a Playful Look at Religion