From Norwegian writer-director André Ovredal comes the spry, amusing and pulse-pounding "Trollhunter," a monster movie with a love for mountainous, tree-lined Scandinavian scenery and an even greater love for setting memorably ugly, hulking and destructive mythological creatures against it.
Though it's filmed mock-documentary style, it nicely rises above this overused conceit. Ovredal quickly wins us over when his college-age film crew characters -- investigating mysterious bear killings in Norway's forests -- join forces with Hans (Otto Jespersen), a taciturn, Land Rover-driving mercenary who tracks and kills wandering trolls for a secret government agency that's keeping the creatures' existence hidden from the public.
Part "Ghostbusters" and "Cloverfield" -- with a satiric touch of social conscience à la "District 9" -- Ovredal's mix of dark comedy, hinterlands travelogue and divertingly rough CGI handiwork yields entertaining results, including Jespersen's fantastically deadpan performance and the suspenseful, nervously funny interactions with their towering, sunlight-averse prey. (The wonderful troll design work by Håvard S. Johansen and Ivar Rødningen has a texturally icky authenticity.)
It's to the movie's credit how sweetly anthropological the film's take on these fairy-tale stalwarts is, because for now it feels like a bracing, low-key corrective to summer's in-your-face glut of superpower heroics.
"Trollhunter." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. At the Nuart, West Los Angeles.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times