Thursday Trailer Face-Off! The Troll Hunter vs. The Scenesters
Published May 12, 2011
Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Troll Hunter vs. The Scenesters, two are-they-serious films that explore what happens when young hipsters make documentaries in perilous circumstances.
Premise Fair warning: both of these movies are mockumentaries, and they both sound weird. We’re not even sure which one is weirder. The Troll Hunter is a Norwegian thriller loosely based on Norwegian folklore, about several students who set out to make a documentary about a guy they think is poaching bears—but who turns out to be hunting trolls! When they find this out, they ask whether they can join him, and he says yes—so long as none of them are Christian. (Trolls, of course, can smell Christian blood.) Speaking of blood, The Scenesters is—as far as we can tell—a movie about a movie about people who make movies about crime scenes. In it, a serial killer has been picking off LA’s hipster population one by one, and a group of crime-scene videographers decides to track him down. And also, another person wants to make a documentary about those videographers. So it’s three layers of meta, rather than just one—we think. Since it’s so confusing (and it seems like it’s just trying to mess with us), we’ll give this one the ‘wegies. Advantage: The Troll Hunter
Cast This is a tough one, because there are so many little golden tidbits about members of both casts. The Troll Hunter is mostly made up of Norwegian comedians, both unknown and well known, and though we hadn’t heard of any of them before today, we’re intrigued: one of them (Hans Morten Hansen) holds the world record for longest stand-up performance, after 38 hours and 7 minutes; another (Otto Jespersen) is known for shock performances that include, at one point, satirically mourning Holocaust victims’ lice, which, just, wow. As for The Scenesters, its cast, too, is mostly unknowns, but it also features Robert R. Shafer (Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks) and John Landis (director of The Blues Brothers and Animal House, whom you’d totally recognize if you saw him). The Scenesters wins it for two trivia items: one, Sherilyn Fenn was married to Johnny Depp for three years in the ’80s; and two, John Landis directed the music video for “Thriller.” So, you know. Advantage: The Scenesters
Director There’s not much to be found about The Troll Hunter‘s director, André Øvredal, on IMDb: besides this, he’s directed a 2000 film called Future Murder. It does not look good. The Scenesters‘ director, Todd Berger, has had his fingers in a few more pots: besides directing shorts and TV shows, he’s done a fair amount of acting, including turns in both Southland Tales and Parks and Recreation. So he must have some range. Advantage: The Scenesters
Wait, Are They for Real? We’re not 100% sure, but it seems like both of these films deal in extremely dry black humor. It’s more evident in The Scenesters, the trailer for which boasts a lot of awkward not-quite-jokes (“You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find someone to clean up blood,” one character remarks at 0:41. “I would think that,” another replies). Plus, it’s filmed in the style, just this side of mumblecore, that we associate with what happens when comedians make low-budget films. The Troll Hunter is harder to figure out: it’s billed as a drama or thriller on IMDb, Wikipedia, and Apple, and the footage it offers seems pretty true to genuine mockumentary horror films in the Blair Witch category. But those title cards—SOMETIMES YOU GET TO SEE A UNIQUE FILM / SO REVEALING / THAT IT CHANGES YOUR CONCEPT OF SOCIETY! THE MOST IMPORTANT FILM OF OUR TIME IS NORWEGIAN—make us think it’s got something up its gigantic troll sleeve. (Plus, there’s the matter of all those comedians…) Since it’s not all out on the table, we’re more intrigued by the satire factor. Advantage: The Troll Hunter
Genuine Scariness So which of these groups of attractive young people has more at stake: the group tracking down a serial killer who’s been targeting their exact demographic, or the group of mostly non-Christians tracking down a troll who hates Christians? The Troll Hunter puts up a valiant fight—some of the glimpses of trolls we get are kind of genuinely unsettling!—but serial killers actually exist in the world. Advantage: The Scenesters
Scandinavian Connection This one is easy: The Troll Hunter was made in Norway, about Norwegian people, based on Norwegian myth. It’s almost an unfair category, but we’re using it mostly as an opportunity to scold The Scenesters on its representation of Nordic people: “You guys are crime-scene videographers. These men are artists,” a cop explains. “Yeah. They’re from Denmark,” another says. “Hallo!” exclaim the two Danes, smiling and waving. It kind of weirds us out. Danes are people too—not just punchlines! Advantage: The Troll Hunter
The Verdict Frankly, even after subjecting them to our patented multi-step analyses, we’re still a little baffled by both of these films. The deadpan hipster humor in The Scenesters doesn’t strike us as very funny (hipster jokes get old fast because they’re so predictable), though its premise is legitimately kind of interesting. And while we’re a little wary of yet another mockumentary horror film, and of how patently ridiculous The Troll Hunter sounds, we’re a little curious about exactly how ridiculous it will turn out to be—and whether it’s a comedy after all. So it’s a draw. Winner: Both… but also neither, kind of.