Troll (1985), Troll 2 (1990), and Best Worst Movie (2009) – reviewed by George

My son told me I should see a documentary called Best Worst Movie, but that I first should see the best worst movie: Troll 2. I thought I should start with Troll, but was told that Troll and Troll 2 are completely unrelated. After that I found out that my Netflix doesn’t offer Troll 2, and while Amazon has it, for only 10 cents more I could get the double feature. So here goes another triple review.

Troll – While watching I kept thinking, “How could any movie be worse than this?” Michael Moriarty (Law and Order) and Shelley Hack (Charlie’s Angels) play Harry and Anne Potter (yes, Harry Potter!), the parents of Harry Jr. and the younger Wendy (Noah Hathaway and Jenny Beck). The movie begins when the family moves into a first floor apartment in a large city. They meet the neighbors, and every normal human impulse would say abandon this place immediately. The second floor is occupied by a swinger played by Sonny Bono, the third by a fitness-nut played by Gary Sandy (WKRP in Cinncinati), the fourth by an engaged girl played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is frequently visited by her boyfriend (played by Brad Hall, Julia’s future husband), and the top floor by a good witch played by June Lockhart. One of the floors must have a second apartment because there is also a professor played by Phil Fondacaro. Only June Lockhart comes out of this unembarrassed, but it is not so much the fault of the other actors as it is of the script and certainly to some extent the direction by John Carl Buechler. It all plays as if Buechler thought he was making a comedy – it just isn’t funny. Wendy gets taken over by a troll in the basement and starts acting out bigtime. She then appears, sometimes as herself, sometimes as the troll. There is no reason for these transformations, or at least not one that I caught. There is also no reason for the backyard to be the woods. Gradually the troll turns everyone else into a troll or a vegetable which turns into trolls (?!), though later I realized that I had gotten the idea that Louis-Dreyfus survived. I could not bring myself to go back and check. The witch saves Wendy, and the family packs and leaves. This is just one of those movies where you have to have the press kit to understand what the hell is happening, because the information isn’t in the film. And why was the movie shot in Italy? There is one really nice touch – when the witch turns herself young again she is played by Anne Lockhart, June’s daughter.

Troll 2And here’s the movie that is worse than Troll. It was shot in Utah, but by an Italian director. Here, not “Grease”, but “Lame” is the word. This was originally titled Goblin, so all the monsters are goblins, not trolls. The town the family (this time it’s parents, a daughter, and a younger son) is lured to is Nilbog, or “goblin” backward. And the goblins are backward, as is the whole thing. The cast is mostly drawn from small-town Utah, and many had no previous credits. Everyone seems undirected. Line delivery is almost completely amateurish. The only watchable performance is that of Deborah Reed, who plays the Goblin Queen. She is so over-the-top that she is quite wonderful. Her various make-ups are fun, and her eye-popping is unparalleled. The script is best described as mixed up: the dead, but totally corporeal, grandpa tells the boy to take a package of some sort and to use the contents only “when you really need it.” Then later he says, “It’s only the power of goodness that can defeat the goblins.” So what was in the package? Sure wasn’t goodness. And goodness would seem to be a distinct weakness in fighting things that want to eat you. Wouldn’t they want you to be “good”? In both senses of the word? There’s a scene in the beginning when the family is in a car driving to Nilbog, and the mom asks the boy to sing “that song I like so much.” The song turns out to be Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and when the mom joins in at Merrily, merrily, etc. she sings, Merrily, merrily, so she’s singing in unison, not in a roundelay. Maybe I’m wrong, but I blame that on the director. So let’s sum up:  a director working in his second (or third) language, a script with massive holes in it, a title borrowed to make a bigger connection with a potential audience, and amateur actors. What could go wrong?

Best Worst Movie – This is a documentary made by Michael Paul Stephenson, who played the little boy in Troll 2, and it deals with the normal where-are-they-now concerns of an interested audience, but also with a string of special showings at theaters around America and some in Europe, where people can discuss the movie and why they love it so much. The central figure is George Hardy, a dentist from Alabama, who played the lead role of the father in Troll 2, and is the heart of this documentary. There are some scenes here which I really liked. In one George Hardy goes to a video rental store and asks for Troll 2. The female clerk, with a straight face and a mild manner, tells him it’s in “the Holy Fu**ing Sh*t” section, and they show the section label to prove it. In an interview we meet M.J. Simpson, Horror Movie Journalist, who says that it’s not the worst film ever made, that it’s not really bad, but odd, that some movies look like the people didn’t know how to make a movie, but that Troll 2 looks like they knew how to make a movie, “but had suffered quite a heavy blow to the head.” An audience member at one of the showings says, “I’m sure George Hardy is a great dentist, but I respect him as an actor.” And George is a completely likable guy. They were lucky to have him in the movie and also in this film. Don Packard plays a store owner in Nilbog and has a really good menacing manner and look. In his interview here he discusses his out-patient status during filming  and the fact that he couldn’t stand that “little Mormon kid” who was the lead. Did he understand that he was being interviewed by that kid? At one interview for everyone on the tour, one of the actors says they never saw the complete script, that they only got their pages and didn’t really know what the picture was about. This is completely believable, but the director, Claudio Fragasso, gets upset and comes out of the audience to deny it. “You’re wrong! You don’t remember!” It is also stated that direction for the small parts was by the crew – stand here, go here, say your line. This also made Fragasso angry. But I think that these two statements explain the movie. Or maybe it was the “heavy blow to the head.”

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