For the past few years, I’ve hosted a bi-yearly bad movie night at my house. Originally started as an excuse to barbeque large quantities of chicken and drink a lot, it’s turned into an event that has me sometimes cramming over 40 people into my living room. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a good cook, but the reason people kept coming back was because of my wide selection of God-awful films. In the beginning, the evening’s selections weren’t made until a few minutes prior to show time, but something peculiar happened the second or third time I had everyone over: they started requesting Troll 2. In fact, they didn’t just want to see it again; they demanded it. The Stuff, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and its ilk were no longer good enough for my guests. My gatherings grew bigger and bigger each time after that, with friends inviting their friends over to get loaded and watch this disaster-piece of epic proportions.
Troll 2 isn’t just a movie; it’s an experience. Telling someone that it’s a film about a family who visits a town populated by vegetarian goblins who are trying to turn them into plants so they can eat them just doesn’t do it justice. Suggesting that it fails at every conceivable aspect of filmmaking doesn’t properly convey the ineptness at work. Troll 2 is something that needs to be seen to be believed, where midgets in potato sacks attempt to be terrifying and pissing on food can save a family from certain doom. But above all, its sincerity is what really sells it. That’s the secret ingredient to every legendary “bad” film: everyone involved has to think what they’re making is actually good.
Best Worst Movie, a retrospective documentary helmed by Troll 2 star Michael Paul Stephenson, examines the story behind the making of the film and the sub-culture of bad movie lovers that have turned it into a cult classic. The documentary – for the most part – focuses on George Hardy, the father from the film, who practices dentistry in Alabama. He’s extremely likeable, as the people from his home town continually remind us, so it’s easy to see why the majority of the film is seen from his perspective. But while he had a career to go back to when production was completed on Troll 2, a lot of the actors didn’t. For many of them, it was their first role and BWM does an excellent job of conveying the sense of horror and disappointment they felt after seeing the film for the first time. Stephenson’s childhood dream of stardom went up in flames, while Connie Young, who plays Holly, had to leave it off her resume to get call-backs. Only Robert Ormsby, who played Grandpa Seth, seemed to relish the idea of being in a bad film from the beginning.
Then everything changed: Troll 2 became a cult classic. Theatrical screenings began popping up all over the country, with actors in attendance and the occasional shadow-cast troupe working their magic. Discovering his film had finally gained popularity in the states, director Claudio Fragasso made the trip from Italy to the U.S., and was amazed by the long lines of adoring fans that wrapped around the theatre at every screening he attended. Unfortunately, what he didn’t realize was that people love Troll 2 because it fails at everything it sets out to do. At first, he seems angered by this, calling the actors “dogs” during Q&A sessions and saying that people who like the film because it’s bad “just don’t get it.” He thinks his fantasy-horror epic is a legitimately good film, along with the screenwriter – his wife – and editor. Apparently, Troll 2 is, first and foremost, a commentary on the family unit and vegetarianism, and inspired fantasy films like Harry Potter (an ironic comment, considering that the original Troll has two characters named Harry Potter in it). Eventually, he concedes on some level, admitting that, “Being considered the worst movie is almost as much a compliment as being considered the best. It means I’ve made an impression.” Oddly enough, Margo Prey, the mother from the film, also thinks it’s actually good and goes as far as to compare it to Casablanca.
Conventions are visited, Q&A’s are attended, newfound stardom is experienced, and almost every single cast member is interviewed, but questions that are posed during the documentary remain unanswered. When a fan asks Fragasso why the film is called Troll 2 and there are no trolls in it, he responds with a snarky non-answer and becomes frustrated that no one gets his film. Earlier in the documentary, we’re told that it was originally called “Goblin” during production, and I think it’s safe to assume it was eventually christened Troll 2 because the distributors wanted to give it a name that could be marketed as a sequel to a somewhat well-known movie, but I want to know the back story behind it. What did Claudio have to say about his film being renamed? The topic of outtakes and deleted scenes also comes up, without any direct answer about if they still exist or their whereabouts. I realize these unanswered questions were left in to showcase the eccentric characteristics of Fragasso, but I’m genuinely curious about the answers and I’m sure other fans are, too.
Best Worst Movie is an exceptional supplement to Troll 2 and a chronicling of accidental greatness that is equally sincere and hilarious. Luckily, Stephenson, Hardy, and the other cast members were willing to be completely honest and open about a film almost all of them were ashamed of and, in turn, churned out one of the most entertaining documentaries I’ve seen in quite some time. As a huge fan of Fragasso’s film, Stephenson’s love letter to his acting debut is extremely impressive and I feel that the uninitiated will have no choice but to run out and watch Troll 2 afterwards.
Deleted Scenes And Interviews (57:03) – A collection of nine scenes, ranging anywhere from three to eleven minutes individually, featuring new interviews with the Gibbs Brothers (goblins) and Mike Hamill (`Preacher Bells’), and extended interviews with Robert Ormsby and Claudio Fragasso, and a little bit more on how the Rolling Roadshow came together. The oddest extra has to be Hardy performing dental work on Troll 2‘s goblin queen, Deborah Reed. Although you can play all the extras together (meaning every single special feature I’m about to list), you can’t just play the deleted scenes all together. It’s one of the strangest “extras” menu I’ve ever seen on a DVD, and I wish Docudrama would have made sub-menus to differentiate the multiple kinds of supplemental on the disc. Also, there’s a short film that played before the Troll 2 at the Rolling Roadshow called Ogre, and I’m confused as to why it didn’t make it on the disc.
A Public Service Announcement From George Hardy (1:08) – One of the Alamo Drafthouse’s famous anti-noise ads, featuring George Hardy doing his “You can’t piss on hospitality’ shtick. Sadly, I can’t say I’ve ever seen this one at the theatre.
Kingdom Of The Goblins (4:21) – Dem Waffle Houze Boiz’s video for `Kingdom Of The Goblins (Nilbog)’, featuring a few high school age kids rapping the plot of the film from the perspective of different characters. It has almost no production value whatsoever and you can tell the guys who made it aren’t serious at all, but it’s a cool little fan contribution none the less.
Meat Noam Telnobody 2 (6:04) – A Troll 2 inspired short about eating meat to keep yourself regular, also serving as a PSA against putting soap down the toilet.
Provocative Interview With Troll 2′s Goblin Queen, Deborah Reed (13:01) – One of things I felt Best Worst Movie was missing was substantial screen time from Deborah Reed, who played Credence. She talks about how she came up with the costume for the character, what she makes a living doing, how the film has affected her life, and how her son Gavin was cast as `Peasants’ son.’
George Hardy Doesn’t Know My Name (4:16) – An episode of the popular web series `The Real Good Show’ in which George forgets the name of the host (Bobby Miller, director of Tub).
Monstrous Music Video (4:11) – I saw this music video at least two years ago on YouTube, and it never gets old. It’s probably the best bit of Troll 2 fan appreciation out there, featuring a remix of the title theme and clips playing behind a clever rap retelling the entire plot of the film from Joshua’s perspective.
Filmmaker Q&A with Creative Screenwriting Magazine (1:21:46) – CSW senior editor Jeff Goldsmith sits down with Stephenson and Hardy post-Best Worst Movie screening. It’s extremely lengthy audio-only interview, and could act as a commentary for the doc if you could sync them up (and you can’t do that unless you download this podcast on your computer and then play it over the DVD). It covers everything you could possibly want to know about and more, and is consistently humorous (but maybe that’s the Goblin Beer talking).