Review: The Troll Hunter by Jamie

A short one today because I’m feeling a little under the weather.

Norway is a country that I know very little about so let’s just get into the review. The Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren in it’s native tongue) is a Norwegian film shot in the found footage documentary style. It follows the story of three college film makers as they try and make a documentary about a possible bear poacher, Hans, operating in Norway. Initially the man is resistant to there attempts to interview him but they follow him into the forest at night where they are attacked by something and one of the film makers is bitten. After the attack Hans relents and allows them to film him and his work as a Troll Hunter and explains that yes, trolls exist and they are kept in check and kept secret by a shady government organisation. Recently they have been leaving there territory and getting closer to human settlements meaning his work load has increased substantially lately. He destroys the trolls by using bursts of simulated sunlight which enough of can cause the trolls to turn to stone or explode. They then go on several hunts with him, discovering the true nature of trolls and trying to figure out the mystery of why they are venturing outside of their territory.

First of I want to say that this film is pretty goddamn awesome. It manages to be quite tense at times but really quite funny at others. I can’t really remark on the quality of the acting because it’s always hard to gauge when people are talking in a foreign language but it seemed as though everyone was doing a pretty good job.

The special effects of the trolls are generally pretty good but there were times when they did seem very fake, particularly when the first troll on screen and the stone troll it became. There is a band of smaller trolls later on that looked very good and the biggest troll you see is also exceptionally sweet.

There was one other major problem that I had with the film. They seemed to go out of their way to try as hard as they could to make the trolls seem as scientifically viable as possible. They state that the reason that trolls turn to stone or explode when exposed to sunlight is due to an inability to process calcium which causes them to calcify (Ok, maybe not that scientific but they’re doing the best with what they have). There is one trait that the trolls possess which seems impossible to explain away with even pseudoscience and that is their apparent ability to detect Christians by their smell. It just doesn’t make sense and I’m sure it comes from old legends from the area but they discounted other legends claiming that the trolls were essentially long lived, large mammals and didn’t possess substantial intelligence so why not just dispell the Christian smelling myth as well? As far as I can tell it was for a certain part of the story which is understandable but it just seems to not make sense within the context of the reality the film is trying to establish.

Still overall it was a pretty enjoyable film and a pretty nice addition to the admittedly overburdened found footage genre. Three and a half pints out of five.

Documental: Cropsey by Jamie

It seems that every town has an urban legend involving some kind of scary maniac, weirdo or boogeyman who lives away from the rest of society doing untoward things like kidnapping or murder. The one we had growing up was Bill, a homeless man who lived down by the river. Admittedly ours was an actual person though the legend that grew up around him was probably somewhat exaggerated. There were those who said he was an eccentric billionaire who actually owned a rather nice house but decided to live down by the river instead because he was mental. I don’t really remember any tales of murder but I do remember that our parents would warn us of him when ever we were going down that way.

I remember one day when a few of us were walking across the Cow Pipe (a pipe elevated of the ground that ran from one part of the river to a cow field next to it) and Bill came round the corner. My friend fell and I grabbed him. Unfortuantely he took me with him and I landed in a big pile of stinging nettles. Bill sat there on the pipe laughing at us for a few minute before wandering off. It was one of the times that I remember being really and truly afraid.

The urban legend that circled amongst the kids on Staten Island was of Cropsey and that’s kind of what the film of the same name deals with. The interesting thing about this case is that something happened after the establisment of the legend that gave the story further credence.

On Staten Island there used to be a mental institution called Willowbrook. It was originally designed for 4,000 residents but by 1965 it had over 6,000 and was the biggest state-run institution for the mentally handicapped. In 1972 the institution was visited by the admirably mustachioed Geraldo Rivera in a report he called ‘Willowbrook: The Last Disgrace”. His footage, some of which is shown in ‘Cropsey’ showed scenes of overcrowding, children screeching naked and covered in filth. The report caused a public outcry but Willowbrook would remain open until 1987.

After it’s closure a few of the former residents and even staff members returned, living for periods in the woods around the institution of in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the old building. One of these people was a former employee, Andre Rand.

Whilst all this was going on, children were going missing on Staten Island and this just helped to feed the Cropsey legend further. In 1987 a young girl with Down’s Syndrome called Jennifer Schwiezer went missing. Searches were carried out around the island and eventually her body was found close to Willowbrook. Attention turned towards Rand especially when witnesses came forward claiming that Jennifer had last been seen with a man fitting his description. He was brought in for questioning, charged and convicted receiving twenty -five years to life.

The film itself investigates all aspects of the legends and facts around Staten Island and Willowbrook. First it traces the legened of Cropsey before getting more and more involved in the case of Rand, going so far as to contact him and ask for interviews as a new trial is about to begin involving the disappearance of another little girl from 1981.

Overall it’s a pretty fascinating documentary and one which honestly gets more than a little creepy at times, particularly when the film makers are going through the ruins of Willowbrook at night, discovering all the old sleeping places of people who used to live there. It also handles the question of whether or not Rand is guilty quite well early on although as the film progresses I certainly found myself thinking he was probably guilty not so much because of any slant in the film but because of the actions of Rand himself which also ties into things. Is Rand being declared guilty because of any concrete evidence or because he seems like the kind of person who might do horrible things and therefore makes a convenient boogeyman for the community of Staten Island?

In closing the only real problem I had was that the film seemed a little all over the place at times but I’ll put this down to the nature of the story rather than any real fault of the film itself. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

Review: Paul by Jamie
01/03/2011, 8:00 am
Filed under: Review

There was a time when I believed in a lot of bullshit. Not God, of course. I never got that stupid but things like psychics, ghosts and alien abduction. Alien abduction was the really big one for me. I‘d spend hours reading every story I could about it. I wasn’t any less intelligent then than I am now. In fact I was probably more intelligent than I am now, drink having not dulled my senses just yet. The fact was that I didn’t know how to apply my scepticism with regards to an ultimate creator to all the other things that have absolutely no evidence for their existence. Then one day, and I can’t remember what the trigger for it was, I just realised exactly that. I didn’t believe in a god because there was no evidence for one but I didn’t apply the same thinking to all the paranormal shit I believed in. So I did and my eyes were opened to a happier, more rational existence.

Now I should point out before carrying on that not believing in alien abduction or alien visitation of Earth does not mean I do no not believe in the existence of aliens. That’s the kind of arrogant anthrocentric thinking that put humanity at the top of the heap when it came to creation myths. No, we’re just a hairless ape that happened to evolve the ability to ponder it’s existence. The size of the universe alone makes it seem unlikely that we’re the only ones who have. Of course having a sample size of one makes true discussion on the subject difficult without resorting to what is essentially speculation… So yeah, today I’m looking at the sci-fi comedy ‘Paul’.

It’s the story of two geeks Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) who travel across America starting at the San Diego Comic Con before going to visit the famous sights from American UFO lore such as Roswell and Area 51 (with it’s infamous black mail box which was indeed actually replaced with a bullet-proof white one with a padlock as the rancher it owned to was pissed off with UFO fans going through his mail assuming it was for the base). One night they run into Paul (Seth Rogen) who happens to be an alien escaping from the base after 60 years in captivity. He’s trying to get across the country to a spot where he can be picked up by his people. The two decide to help him on his quest and along the way run into all kinds of predicaments which lead to doings transpiring.

That’ll do for story since the film hasn’t even come out in America yet and I certainly don’t want to be too spoilerific with that being the case. I’ll just say that I found this film very funny. The film is packed with sci-fi references from Star Wars to Batlestar Galactica to The X-Files. Steven Spielberg in particularly is heavily referenced, sometimes with the odd quote thrown in from, say, Jaws but sometimes an entire scene will reference the director’s work. Hell, there’s a scene where Paul is shown sitting in the warehouse from the Indiana Jones series awesome.

What I’m basically getting at here is that if you’re not a big sci-fi fan, there’s a good chance that a lot of these references and jokes might just go over your head and you won’t find it anywhere near as funny as I did. The problem is balance. The film isn’t as funny as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz and the reason is that, whilst those films were full of references to the genres they were paying homage to, they didn’t rely to heavily on them. There was enough humour from other places that someone not so familiar with those genres could latch onto and enjoy.

‘Paul’ seems to rely a lot more heavily on the references than either of those films did and the humour that isn’t directly related to sci-fi isn’t anywhere as clever as those films either. It’s still enjoyable and will get a few decent chuckles but to often they seem to resort to a joke that involves Paul being naked or profanity. There’s one character in particular who does very little but come up with weird swear words arranged in odd ways. That’ll make more sense when you see the film. Also towards the end of the film it seemed like they’d pretty much given up on everything but swearing and every other word that came out of a characters mouth seemed to be fuck or something. I’m not easily offended it just seemed like they’d almost given up and gotten lazy, deciding naughty words would be enough to elicit a cheap laugh.

That being said I can’t stay mad at this movie. It kinda made me feel like that little kid again who believed that aliens had crashed in America in the 1940s and had been visiting Earth. And I really liked the character of Paul. There’s something funny about seeing a grey-type alien doing human things like something as simple as smoke a cigarette or drink a beer. I don’t know why. Maybe you had to be as involved with this stuff as I was when I was a kid to find that funny, I dunno. It was just cool. There’s also an awesome scene in which Paul is involved in a discussion about evolution and creationism. I was very, very happy with that.

So yeah, for me personally, I’ll give Paul four pints out of five. Again though, I think this gonna be a very subjective film. If you’re not a big sci-fi fan then I warn you now, you aren’t gonna get a lot of the jokes or references and the stuff that’s left after that’s gone isn’t the greatest you’ll have seen from these three comic actors before but I reckon it should still be entertaining enough to garner a watch. Laterz.

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