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STUDIO: New Video Group
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 93 Mins.
- Deleted Scenes and Interviews
- Music Videos
- Fan Contributions
- Filmmaker Q & A with Creative Screenwriting Magazine
- A Provocative Message from Troll 2‘s Goblin Queen, Deborah Reed
A film telling the story behind Troll 2 pitches itself.
Director: Michael Paul Stephenson.
Featuring: George Hardy, Michael Paul Stephenson, and Darren Ewing.
Over two decades since its creation, the unintentionally hilarious Troll 2 has become an underground phenomenon. For many of the actors whose lives and careers peaked with their roles in the movie, this revival is a welcome distraction from everyday life. However, those still pursuing careers in the film industry are finding it increasingly difficult to escape.
In an age when many will push the bounds of shame and human decency for the faintest whiff of stardom, Best Worst Movie offers a lesson, a feature-length “be careful what you wish for” on just how much fame can cost. While Troll 2 is largely devoid of deliberate horror, Best Worst Movie addresses the ironic trauma its subject has wrought on those involved with it. Like so many slasher victims, the cast and crew of IMDB’s “worst movie ever” find themselves locked in a perpetual struggle with the film, forcing them into fight or flight mode. Mind you, repressing the memory and deleting the credit from your CV only goes so far. Director Michael Paul Stephenson endured no end of ribbing for the performance he hoped would make him a child star. Best Worst Movie sees him confront this disappointment, clearing up once and for all what happened in small-town Utah way back in ’89 and examining why it’s caused such a strong belated reaction.
Like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, Troll 2 is the perfect storm of good intentions and disastrous execution. It’s a horror movie that isn’t scary, has nothing to do with its predecessor, and is entirely troll-less… unless you count goblins as trolls. It’s the simple tale of a boy (Stephenson) whose family go on holiday to Nilbog, a town filled with vegetarian monsters which immediately attempt to eat them. It’s no coincidence the town’s name is goblin spelled backwards. What the film lacks in quality, it makes up for with amusingly bad dialog (“you can’t p*ss on hospitality… I WON’T ALLOW IT!”) acting and just about everything else. The movie has gradually earned a loyal fanbase since slipping onto VHS in 1990, including Tim League and Zack Carlson of the world-renowned Alamo Drafthouse, as well as comedians Curtis Gwinn and John Gemberling of New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade. Using their influence, these men and others around the world are elevating Troll 2 from forgotten curiosity to essential guilty pleasure by organizing screenings for fans, friends, and newbies alike.
Of course, it’s only a matter of time before news of this reaches those involved with the film. Most embrace their new notoriety, getting in on the joke by laughing along at these screenings and even appearing at conventions. None more so than dentist George Hardy, Troll 2‘s über-quotable Dad, Michael Waits. Hardy gets the film’s success is due to the staggering ineptitude behind it and he laughs at himself openly and honestly, a welcome change in the age of the “never-wrong” online blowhard. Consequently, Hardy is our “hero”, his refreshing lack of ego ensuring he’ll be remembered as an example of good grace for wannabe actors.
Not everyone shares Hardy and Stephenson’s enlightened attitude, though. Claudio Fragasso, Troll 2‘s Italian director, quickly assumes the role of villain in his film’s resurgence. For reasons unknown, Fragasso insists his work succeeds not simply as a bad movie that’s fun to watch, but rather as a well-made film in its own right. Confronted with the overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary, he scoffs his way through screenings and Q and A’s, muttering under his breath in broken English. The more Fragasso talks, the more entangled he becomes in his own bemusing views. One minute his film is a look at “the union of the family”, the next “these people (the fans) are crazy. It’s not normal.” By the time he’s dismissing the film’s cast as “actor dogs”, he comes across as cruel and, ultimately, foolish. If he stopped huffing and just owned up to the obvious, he too would be at peace with it. After all, he did use the “American sounding” pseudonym Drake Floyd for the film. Fragasso doesn’t change, however, so the joke’s on him.
No villain is complete without his henchmen, though. Fragasso’s wife and writing partner on the film, Rossella Drudi, and their editor, Vanio Amici, support the director’s preposterous defence. Drudi flatters herself by calling Troll 2 “a ferocious analysis of today’s society”, but it’s Amici who pushes the envelope of absurdity. According to him, the little film he edited is an under-appreciated landmark that paved the way for moneymaking family juggernauts such as the Harry Potter series. The less said about that the better.
Amidst all the laughs, there are some sobering moments. Several of the local Utah actors, including Don Packard, the perma-stoned Nilbog Store Owner, and Robert Ormsby (Grandpa Seth) are disarmingly frank about their disappointments with the film and how their lives turned out afterward. As with so many of their former colleagues on the film, Troll 2 was as good as it got for them; Packard even reveals a triumphant Manhattan screening to be his happiest memory. Their film’s unexpected surge in popularity is a welcome distraction from humdrum daily life, but whether the belated hubbub makes up for the all those “wasted” years is unclear. Stephenson and Hardy’s attempt to convince Margo Prey (Diana Waits) to appear at a screening is particularly painful. Too low profile for even the convention circuit, Prey’s hopes of a return to acting whither as she looks after her elderly mother full-time. To compound this, she compares Troll 2 to Casablanca without a hint of irony, making a sincere comeback harder still. In all likelihood, this woman who wants (and needs) the chance to enjoy this attention can’t even do that. Seguing from all-out comedy to weightier moments like these is a delicate process and Stephenson deserve credit for mostly handling it very well. One too many scenes of the actors recreating scenes from Troll 2 aside, he never bludgeons the point home. The darker side of celebrity could’ve got left behind amidst all the bright lights and headlines, but the film wouldn’t be half as effective without these sequences, no matter how tragic they become.
During the Creative Screenwriting Magazine Q and A on the disc’s special features, Stephenson speaks fondly of the back-seat driver method of documentary film-making. Rather than go the Michael Moore tour-guide route, Stephenson’s all about letting the people behind the story tell it. Smart move, given the colourful array of personalities surrounding Troll 2. The only problem is Stephenson himself is largely a peripheral figure… and this is as much his story as it is Hardy’s or Fragasso’s. In fact, Stephenson’s own struggle to come to terms with the film gave him the idea for Best Worst Movie in the first place. I’d like to think this decision to background himself, the co-star, was a meta wink to Twenty Four Hour Party People and Steve Coogan’s portrayal of Tony Wilson, a supporting character in his own story, but Stephenson’s comparitively brief role in front of the camera here feels more like sheepishness on the director’s part. Perhaps, a lingering fear about shaking off the stigma of his infamous first role. It’s hard not to reach this conclusion watching anecdote after anecdote from his co-stars, while Stephenson flits in and out of shot. Had he and his former on-screen father Hardy shared the spotlight and the film played like the buddy picture its story suggests, we might very well have been talking about something special, not a solid but occasionally frustrating look at one of the coolest cinematic surprises in generations.
Given the role honesty plays in “good” bad film-making, Fragasso’s announcement of the impending sequel “Troll 2: Part 2″ is deeply exasperating. Troll 2 is a bolt of irony-free cinematic lightning; going back for seconds will most likely result in a jumbo version of the countless “deliberately” bad movie trailers doing the rounds online for years now. Troll With A Shotgun or The Trolls Won’t Die might be fine for a quick chuckle, but it’s not enough to sustain a whole film (unless your last name is Rodriguez or Tarantino.) Whether this sequel emerges or not, one thing is certain: nothing can take away the magic of Troll 2 which, for many, remains the best bad film in the long, wacky history of bad films.
I still prefer The Room, but that’s just me.
Creative Screenwriting Magazine‘s Q & A with Stephenson and Hardy is as fun as you’d expect with both guests reflecting on everything from Italian cinema’s dodgier moments (Fragasso has directed a movie called Terminator II) and how bad those double-decker baloney sandwiches really tasted on set. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the many deleted scenes included, most of which amount to trimmed fat. The best extras are those drawn from the burgeoning Troll 2 fan community. On most discs, the inclusion of fan-made music videos would probably be a disaster but here it’s all part of the fun. Both tracks follow the YouTube remix format: original beats + quote-heavy rapping multiplied by film clips = comedy gold. Special praise must also go to the Alamo’s super-fans, once again; their inspired version of the “keep quiet in the theatre” warning message starring Hardy and featuring clips of goblin-bashing should be mandatory in every cinema worldwide forevermore.
The presentation of this disc ensures composer Carlo Cordio is the only member of Troll 2‘s crew who escapes blemish-free. His gloriously pompous 80’s synth score is about the only thing in it that isn’t a guilty pleasure, as anyone who still hums Super Nintendo themes will likely tell you. It’s preserved here in glorious 5.1. alongside a whole host of clips from the movie itself which have never looked better/worse. Like Troll 2, Best Worst Movie proves that Stephen King is right; some mistakes, like rejection letters, are best remembered.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars