For the past few years, I’ve hosted a bi-annual bad movie night at my house. Originally started as an excuse to barbecue 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 both 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, I found Stephenson’s love letter to it extremely impressive and feel that the uninitiated will be compelled to run out and watch Troll 2 afterwards.