Two of Norway’s most popular movies centre around the mythology of trolls. But which of Troll and Trollhunter is best? Let's find out.
Norway has a long association with trolls, from ancient texts and fairy tales to the more recent media of TV and cinema. Not to mention their ever presence in Norway’s souvenir shops!
In a similar way to recent TV series reigniting interest in the Viking Age, two recent troll-themed movies have increased interest in the mythology of trolls.
Trollhunter and Troll both take a fantastic look into this world but in very different ways. While it’s obvious that any well-made films coming out of Norway should be celebrated, sometimes we can have fun pitting them against each other!
Overall, it seems many of our readers prefer Troll but a few of you love Trollhunter more. So, why not take a look at the two, side by side, and see if we can come up with a winner?
An introduction to Trollhunter
The film from director André Øvredal was released in 2010. Trollhunter (Trolljergeren) tells the story, in fake documentary ‘found footage’ style, of a group of students investigating a series of fatal bear attacks in Norway.
Before too long, they meet up with a mysterious stranger who eventually leads them to realise that trolls are not only real but that they’re what’s actually behind the ‘bear attacks’. He’s the titular troll hunter who is quietly tasked with taking care of the problem while the inept government tries to keep it all covered up.
An introduction to Troll
From director Roar Uthang, the 2022 Netflix movie Troll is more of a traditional ‘creature feature' in the mould of King Kong. A company blasts its way through a mountain to build a tunnel, only to awaken a mountain troll that lives there.
The Troll them goes on a rampage through Norway and it becomes a race against time as a team of scientists and soldiers try to distract the troll before it turns its attention on the highly populated capital, Oslo.
Now, let's compare the two movies in terms of storyline, acting, mythology, landscapes, direction, and much more.
The storyline in Troll is a clear attempt to show the link between environmental destruction and the trolls. The troll is awakened by workers blasting a tunnel through the mountains.
Just like Godzilla is a response to mankind’s obsession with nuclear weapons, Troll offers a timely reminder that environmental destruction will ultimately cause us more problems than it solves.
In Trollhunter, questions about the environment are raised, but in a much less obvious way. Instead, the movie leans more into Norway’s bureaucracy as a key element. Trolls are a Norwegian ‘problem’ that the government are ineptly trying to keep quiet for fear of raising panic.
Both of the storylines are great, so it’s tough to choose. But for me Trollhunter offers a slightly different storyline to the obvious ones that we usually see in the movies.
A lot of the time, acting is all about the script. If you have a great script, you can get a good result with less-skilled actors. The real magic comes when you have great actors who bring out the best of a bad script.
In Troll, the script is…well…it’s not great! It’s cheesy, and the whole thing is filled with every trope such that you can almost predict what the actors are going to say before they say it. Ine Marie Wilmann as the scientist Nora Tiedemann is very good at delivering these lines in a way that minimises their obvious nature.
Trollhunter is more of a comedic film, with a good comedy script being played well by good comedy actors. Otto Jespersen as Hans, the titular Trollhunter, gives a great comedic turn as the gruff and unfriendly character. His dry delivery and perfect timing is one of the things that makes the movie so great.
Both films have some great acting, and showcase a more down-to-Earth and wry Norwegian style rather than the over the top American style that we’re more sued to. For me, Troll slightly edges it here because the actors do a much better job of turning the trite, cliché-packed script into something more believable.
We all know the mythology of Trolls. They hide under bridges, they die in sunlight and they can smell the blood of Christians. Both films make good use of the elements of mythology.
Trollhunter briefly dares to ponder why it’s Christians and not Muslims, for example, that Trolls can smell. They also evoke the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff with a troll under a bridge. As it’s a comedy film, they clearly know how to have fun with the subject.
Troll’s mythology seems a little more limited. There’s the sunlight element and the Christian element but they’re done in a slightly more ham-fisted way, as if they’ve been tagged in to a cut-and-paste storyline to make it more Norwegian. Many other reviewers have noted that it would probably be a better movie if it made more of these elements.
Any movie shot in Norway is bound to be beautiful. Even the big cities are only a few minutes away from breath taking countryside and postcard scenery. I’d challenge anyone to make Norway look anything less than perfect on a cinema screen.
In Troll the landscape is, in fact, a key element in the movie. The blast for the tunnel awakens the landscape itself, in rage at man’s actions. We see a lot of the scenery when the troll is rampaging.
As a found footage film, Trollhunter rarely focuses in long shots on the scenery and, because trolls hate sunlight, most of it happens in the dark. It has some beautiful shots, however, especially when the students are making their way around the country and it’s definitely a worthy contender.
Trollhunter is the debut feature film by André Øvredal. He has since gone on to direct Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, written by Guillermo del Toro, and The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Mortal. His work is mostly related to horror and terror and weird things happening.
His forthcoming film The Last Voyage of Demeter is based on a chapter in Bram Stoker’s Dracula telling the story of a ship sailing to London with a cargo of unmarked boxes. Set for release in August 2023, it stars Corey Hawkins and Aisling Franciosi.
Troll is the latest film directed by Roar Uthaug who had 5 previous works under his belt. The main one that he is known for is the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft. Other works include disaster movie The Wave, and Cold Prey.
Uthaug’s work is generally closer to the big disaster movies, with huge earth-shattering events portrayed with stunning visual effects.
It’s always tough to compare two directors but with these two it’s perhaps easier. Both are Norwegian and both were born in 1973. Their films too have similarities and they clearly enjoy situations of terror and stress, along with some decent well-timed comedy moments.
Overall though, I think André Øvredal just edges it for me. As a debut feature, and with a pretty small budget, Trollhunter is an impressive piece of production. Netflix never confirm how much they spend on movies but it’s likely Troll cost much more.
Compared to Other Films
The most obvious direct comparisons to Troll are the Japanese-style Kaiju monster movies. Godzilla and King Kong have been brought to screen so many times that every time there’s a remake it’s hard to imagine why!
While Troll is better than a few of these adaptations, it falls way short of the big-budget versions. That said, it holds its own as being a worthwhile creature feature and it’s definitely a positive to see different ideas being brought in, rather than the same old monsters.
Trollhunter is often compared to The Blair Witch Project, which was one of the first and certainly the most enduring found footage films. It is not as directly terrifying, and it doesn’t use unseen, unspecified horrors off screen to hype up the tension.
Being played as a comedy is also a quite rare in the world of found footage movies. You get the tension and horror of the events as they unfold but you also get a rich seam of dry humour that’s typical of Norwegians.
If I was recommending a good creature feature, would I recommend Troll? Maybe, but I’d probably put it quite far down the list. But in terms of found footage, even with the modern resurgence of the genre with footage supposedly pieced together from laptops and mobile phones, such as 2023’s Missing, Trollhunters holds its own.
By The Numbers
Remarkably, both films clock in at almost the exact same runtime. Troll is 1hr 43 while Trollhunter is 1hr 41! Length of movies isn’t really an indicator of quality though, so let’s just say they both tell their story efficiently without much padding. They’re well edited to come along, do what they need and then leave us when the time is right.
According to the critics they’re both pretty decent movies. On Rotten Tomatoes, both score over 80% among professional reviewers with Troll edging out Trollhunter slightly, 89% to 82%. These are both impressive stats though and again we can’t easily say there’s moch to choose between them here.
According to audiences, however, things are much different. Trollhunter pulls in a respectable 72% among audiences. For Troll, the picture is not so good. Only 50% of the audience said they enjoyed the movie so clearly it seems people prefer Trollhunter.
As a Netflix film, Troll is readily available to watch at any time. Netflix don’t guarantee to keep everything online forever but for the time being, anyone with an account can watch in any of the many dubbing and subtitled options.
Trollhunter is a lot harder to get hold of. When I first saw it, it was on Netflix. Recently it has been removed and is only available to buy or to rent in the UK (this may differ in other countries). I’m obviously not averse to paying for movies, but this is a barrier to anyone who just wants to stumble across a movie to watch.
Should you watch Troll or Trollhunter?
When I started to write this article, I didn’t set out with an agenda. I honestly wanted to think deeply about them and see which one I think ends up on top.
I think the main thing to take away is that both films are great and are worth watching when you have the time.
The final score is close but with a score of 5 to 3, Trollhunter is my winner.
What do you think? Did I get the right winner? Let us know in the comments below.