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The 'Truth' About Trolls

Wednesday 7 September 2011, 10:35

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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I've just seen Troll Hunter - a new feature film out this Friday about... well, about Troll hunting. It's the latest in a long line of fake documentaries that started with The Blair Witch Project - but what is it about this genre that continues to entertain us?

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    Comment number 1.

    Personally I've never liked Blair Witch. I find there is a fundamental flaw in the whole premise and that is if you are really that scared, please, please, ditch the beeping video camera. Apollo 18 is now in cinemas and not doing brilliantly. Cloverfield is OK and Paranormal Activity only works on first viewing. You do not need techniques such as handheld cameras, found documentary footage or real time filmmaking (The Silent House, for example) to create a good horror movie as there are perfectly good horror movies that excel because of the terrifying atmosphere without the use of the one single shot technique or found documentary footage. A good example is The Orphanage which is, in my opinion, the best horror movie of the last decade. The sub genre has never had a huge effect on me. I found Cloverfield to be entertaining but uninvolving and Blair Witch to be slightly dull and full of characters who were deeply annoying.

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    Comment number 2.

    Theres a really good found footage film called Alien Abduction: The Macpherson Tape (or Incident in Lake County in the US) which can be seen occasionally on the movie channels on sky, it pre-dates Blair Witch by a year and I remember watching it really late at night when I was about 11 and being genuinely freaked out by it. I did watch it again recently and age 23 did see it for what it was (i.e. pretty ropey but in a clever way) so worth checking out if you haven't seen it

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    Comment number 3.

    Sounds interesting. Although the troll film that I'm most looking forward to at the moment is the adaptation of Terry Pratchett's short story "Troll Bridge". The funding to finish this film was generated through a kickstarter project, and I think it should be pretty cool. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/snowgumfilms/terry-pratchetts-troll-bridge)

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    Comment number 4.

    I really liked this film

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    Comment number 5.

    It's a literary device too. Bram Stoker's Dracula and Frankenstein are written as diary entries. To give the same feel of reality that found/documentary footage does. Also... look out MASSIVE TROLL!!! Looks like a lot of fun.

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    Comment number 6.

    I thought Troll Hunter was pretty good - beautiful to look at (the landscapes are incredible) and mostly very entertaining.

    The only thing that I think is a problem with the 'reality' genre is the nasty habit of trying to 'build up' suspense, meaning the first hour of is a lot of wandering around and noticing things in a haphazard way, before anything actually happens.

    Troll Hunter gets round this, as I've mentioned, by throwing stunning scenery at you, so it's easy to forgive. I just hope future filmmakers start to get inventive with the genre, rather than relying on the slow climb / quick fall mechanism that is the undoing of most found-footage thrillers. Troll Hunter does it well though, and is pretty funny to boot.

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    Comment number 7.

    I like the fact you mentioned The Last Broadcast. I rather enjoyed that film and thought it to be far superior to Blair Witch, although it has a strange contrast by the end as it shifts from the documentary style in to the 'filmic' section and does away with the believabilty of the main part of the film. However, in the cinema environment the audience is always going to hae to go in to a screening with the knowlege that they must indeed suspend their disbelief (with of course the exception of those who know little to nothing about the film as you mentioned was the case in certain screenings of Blair Witch).
    For this reason I find the realm of broadcast for this particular genre to be rather interesting. As is well known with Orson Wells' famous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds which sparked a strong public reaction from those who were unaware it wasn't real. But this reminded me more recently of a BBC programme in the 90s called Ghostwatch, which played out like a live broadcast factual programme but by the end had the on air "possession" of Michael Parkinson. This had my then young brother and myself quite litterally hiding under the sheets. What I find interesting now about that is that subsequent programmes such as Most Haunted Live in comparison play out in like they are the parody!

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    Comment number 8.

    I enjoyed Blair Witch and The Last Broadcast (and Cannibal Holocaust), but I kinda lost interest in the whole faux documentary-did this really happen? (no) thing after that. The thing I enjoyed most in these films was people coming up with a innovative idea and doing it with no money and loads of enthusiasm because it was something new and exciting. For the most part it now seems to have become just another (somewhat formulaic) genre.

    Having said that though, Troll Hunter looks fun :)

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    Comment number 9.

    I saw this a few months back and absolutely loved it. It was nice to have a faux documentary that didn't take itself seriously and try and convince us the footage was real. We all know in this that the footage was fake and therefore able to enjoy it more as a film than as trying to debate wether what we are saying is fake or real. I througly enjoyed it.

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    Comment number 10.

    I liked blair witch and whilst the faux documentary aspect was part of that more to the point it was scary (at least to me) in that the build up to bad times was slow and this enabled us prior to these happening to learn to know and identity with characters (also well utilised in Wolf Creek). Further no actual sight of the monsters was shown to the audience making us imagine what was seen by the characters, so much so that I thought I saw things that weren't there. Trolls sounds more like some fun, no doubt reawakening the eternal Kermode scary versus comedic horror balance conundrum.

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    Comment number 11.

    Dr Kermode ... much as I love you if you don't stop starting sentences with "So" I'll be forced to lock you in a room with nothing but Transformers 3 for company ... ;-)

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    Comment number 12.

    I would assume that people understant the "mock-doc" genre now but I heard recently that NASA gave a press release assuring people that 'Apollo 18' was not real. That is hilarious. Looking forward to Troll Hunter.

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    Comment number 13.

    I think it says something about how absorbing cinema can be, Blair Witch, even watching it years later is still frightening because you lose yourself in the film, it has the correct pacing and the right atmosphere. This is why Paranormal Activity never worked for me, it just seemed boring and I just wasn't part of the film. [Rec] was a faux doc and that was terrifying in its final act because it was well paced rather than slow and plodding. I became lost in the film, the realism factor helps enormously with that induction into the world of the film.

    On the subject of realism, Cannibal Holocaust and even Mondo Cane mixed reality with fiction to create a sense of realism, and both succeed, it is another tool used to lure the viewer into the world of the film. Even in Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, for me the most frightening scene are those seen through the videocamera, in the same way the most intense sequences of Man Bites Dog are made all the more intense through the handheld presentation of the film. In blurring the lines between reality and fantasy and by becoming absorbed in a genuinely good film the reality of the horror on screen becomes realised.

    When it is done well, the fake documentary style just eases the viewer into the digesis more comfortably making the after effects of a horror film all the more potent.

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    Comment number 14.

    Although faux realism is flawed, it does have it's benefits - NO MUSIC to ruin the suspense. Many film and TV dramas do, at times, use too much music that becomes a distraction to the action. *spoiler* I recently watched Cloverfield and I love the bit when the leading actors are in the subway and then suddenly all the rats are seen running towards them, clearly running away from something terrible. Because of the genre of film there is no music and the suspense is terrific. Had it been a Hollywood blockbuster then we would have had music blasting in our ears and the moment would be lost. And the jumps would gave come from the loud music NOT the suspense.

    Hollywood, if you wish to immerse people into film, don't waste your time with 3D, just use less music. ;-)

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    Comment number 15.

    I don't care for the Found Film Footage Films. That just usually means everyone in the movie will spout terrible improvised dialogue heavy on profanity because the actors can't think of anything to say. It also means that they're all dead already so the point of the film is just to show how they die... Pointless. None of these films rise above being 'marginal' at best, except Henry:Portrait of A Serial Killer which isn't a Found Film Footage Film.
    I do want to see Troll Hunter and will keep an open mind. It looks like a comedy rather than a horror movie, though.

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    Comment number 16.

    I don't care for found footage because the shaky camera makes me bloody motion sick! I had to watch the last ten minutes of Blair Witch from behind my hands, and not because I was scared (I was bored beyond belief). The rest of the time it just feels like a gimmick - "let's remake godzilla/night of the living dead/poltergeist, etc but with found footage".

    Troll Hunter does look fun though. I like muppets.

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    Comment number 17.

    I don't have a problem with moc-doc or found footage films. I think individual films stand on their own merits or lack of accordingly.

    The way I understand these movies is that they are a way to get films made with much lower budgets and using almost guerilla techniques. Anything that helps first time and independent film makers produce films outside the multi-zillion dollar studio system has to be good.

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    Comment number 18.

    I think the best faux documentary I've seen is The Magician. Written, directed & starring Scott Ryan. I went to a Q & A with him after a screening & he was brimming over with ideas for next films but he's not done anything (that I've found anyway) since.

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    Comment number 19.

    Many bought the BBC's excellent mockumentary GhostWatch hook, line & sinker.

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    Comment number 20.

    There had better be some Peer Gynt on the soundtrack. A Norwegian film about trolls? It would be ridiculous if there isn't.

 

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