What turns a b-movie into a cult film? What kind of movie does it take to build a fanbase who will watch it over and over again, inspiring them to create their own props and items based on the film and play dress-up during midnight screenings? What makes otherwise seemingly normal individuals do this, and why do they pick certain movies over others?
Best Worst Movie is a fantastic documentary that offers a unique look into this phenomenon- an insider view, if you will. This is because the filmmakers and subjects are the people behind Troll 2, often considered the worst movie ever made.
Out of nowhere a few years ago people started realizing what a classic Troll 2 is. If you’re like me, you might have been curious and picked the movie up at the video store way back in the day, especially if you had seen the original Troll, which was an absolutely terrifying film for a kid. The sequel has nothing whatsoever to do with it… there aren’t even any trolls in the film! Instead it revolves around a family on vacation in the town of Nilbog (figure it out) who are attacked by vegetarian goblins that try to turn them into plants so they can eat them.
Yeah. I’m not sure why they don’t just eat things from the forest (seems a bit easier to me) but you can’t question a goblin’s motives.
For an even better idea of what kind of movie it is, just watch this-
So as you can see, this is the perfect kind of bad movie, a bizarre horror movie that fails on almost every conceivable level. Terrible acting from a cast confused by a foreign crew guarantees that it makes absolutely no sense, and if you love bad movies there’s just no way that you won’t have a good time with it.
Michael Paul Stephenson is the child star of the film whose dreams were dashed upon the movie’s release, and he directed and produced Best Worst Movie, which attempts to figure out just why people have latched onto this movie and love it like they do. The main focus is on George Hardy, the father from the film, who now works as a dentist in Alabama. He’s easily the most likeable person in the film, and is genuinely confused by his newfound celebrity status.
Imagine being an actor who starred in a little-known horror movie that was released straight to video in 1990. You had a few friends that caught it on cable and called you up about it, laughing, but that was about the extent of it. And then imagine that all of a sudden two decades later you were attending sold-out theatrical screenings of the film (something it never got!), meeting with adoring fans and signing autographs. This is what the actors of Troll 2 deal with, and following them as they try to figure out just what the hell they’ve gotten themselves into is incredibly entertaining and endearing. Hardy in particular is fun to watch, because his honesty and openness reflects what we’re all thinking- just what the hell is really happening here?
Over the course of the film Stephenson reunites with almost every single cast member from the film, and they go around the country attending numerous screenings and conventions trying to nail down just what people are getting out of the film. Some of the actors from the film have led unique lives, to put it mildly. Only one guy (Robert Ormsby, who plays the dead man who helps his grandson defeat the goblins with baloney in the film) seems to really have it together and accepts the movie for what it is- a bad movie that people enjoy. Nothing more, nothing less.
While most of the cast were non-actors, some of them were serious about their craft and went on to be much more prolific, and tried to hide their role in Troll 2 from any potential employers. What could kill your chance at a role more than having Troll 2 on the resume? Others, such as Darren Ewing (the infamous “Oh my God!” guy, whose role was loved by Patton Oswalt) relished their claim to fame and savored it, as really everyone should.
One of the strongest parts of the documentary is when Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso hears about the newfound interest in his film and comes all the way from Italy to attend some screenings. He goes to LA and watches a massive line of people streaming into the theater, self-professed fans of the movie who have lined up for hours to get into this screening. In a great twist, Fragasso is more than a little disturbed when he realizes that it’s actually being laughed at, and people like it because of just how bad it is. It’s the most moving part of the film and you start to realize why Troll 2 is as great as it is- the director genuinely believes that it’s a great and important film. So does the screenwriter and the editor, who even goes so far as to suggest that films like his led the way for Harry Potter and other fantasy films!
Truly, he is the Italian Ed Wood, and I can’t wait to track down more of his work. It’s the same reason why people like Uwe Boll films. Sure, they’re terrible, terrible movies, but the way in which they’re terrible is so unique. The people behind them believed in them, thought that they were doing the best they could and making good films. It’s this reason that the rumored Troll 2 sequel they’re working on (Troll 2: Part 2) will inevitably fail, because now that everyone knows what we’re dealing with and are in on the joke, the magic will be lost.
Best Worst Movie is a loving tribute to the cult phenomena. Never before has a doc tried to get to the root of what exactly makes a film a cult film, and while it might be impossible to figure out completely, they get farther into it than anyone ever has.
Best Worst Movie will be having its world premiere at SXSW this Saturday, March 14th, which will be followed by a screening of Troll 2. Check http://www.bestworstmovie.com for more info, and rest assured that we’ll let you know when this movie gets distribution. If there’s any sense of decency in the world we’ll get a dvd of this and Troll 2, and have the perfect Friday night double feature.