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Troll Review

Troll is undoubtedly a Charles Band production; it smacks of the same horror comedy that made films like Ghoulies so successful back in the mid-’80s and early ’90s. And the film is, for better or worse, an unconnected sibling to Ghoulies despite the titular creature that runs around causing havoc in an apartment building. It features the same puppet effects and similar plotting, complete with an evil wizard that wants to turn people into vegetation. Unfortunately, Troll is never able to successfully overcome its far better predecessor, leaving the film an odd horror flick with less of a fanbase than the unrelated sequel with which it gets billed.

It’s pretty clear that Band and his director John Carl Buechler (a special effects guy turned director) were capitalizing on the success of Ghoulies, at least in part. While Ed Naha probably didn’t write the script with that previous film solely in mind, the blockbuster Ghoulies turned out to be influenced the film to take a very different direction – namely, incorporating little puppet trolls into the plot instead of just utilizing the larger troll played in costume by Phil Fondacaro. Often, the little puppets create a disjointed feeling, extra additions that don’t really need to be in the film at all.

But if Troll has one thing going for it, it’s that it embraces the strangeness of its plot. Though there’s actually very little substance to the film (unless you count Harry Potter Sr. [Michael Moriarty] dancing to his records), the inexplicable plot elements and the way the troll’s powers seem to morph throughout the film keep things interesting, the viewer sort of forced to accept the way the films keeps transitioning away from its initial ideas.

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There are a lot of fun moments that utilize the humor of the film; however, Troll seems to rely too heavily on that aspect, to the point where the jokes become sort of grating. One wonders what Troll might have been had it taken itself more seriously. While the budget would have always been small, the special effects present in the film indicate that Buechler probably could have done a darker, more grotesque take on the troll’s attempts to turn people into vegetation. What Troll offers for a theme doesn’t mesh well – something about trolls giving humans rebirth, if Fondacaro’s character Malcolm Mallory is to be believed – because it fails to find meaning in the victims’ demise.

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Instead, the film is probably best viewed in much the same way our next movie, Troll 2, is watched: with little expectation, and a lot of alcohol. While Troll attempts to recreate the magic of Ghoulies with a different type of monster, the consistency and impact of this profoundly strange film is too muddled to recommend.

Troll 2 Review

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If you haven’t seen Troll 2, it’s hard to say whether you’re doing yourself a favor or not. On the one hand, the film has become a staple of bad cinema; it’s almost inevitable that someone, somewhere, is going to mention the movie or make a reference to any number of terrible dialogue choices. On the other hand, maybe it’s better that you don’t see the worst of what the film industry has to offer, especially seeing as Troll 2 is a horror movie and the genre gets the shaft all the time anyway. Most people would have one thinking that Claudio Fragasso’s most outrageously awful title is a great watch because of its hilarious moments, but that too is a bit of an exaggeration – while Troll 2 has its moments, it’s not as excessively funny as it is just plain boring.

But that’s also part of the charm. Fragasso’s writing, along with co-writer and wife Rossella Drudi, smacks of a lack of proofreading and a disconnect within the story itself. Troll 2 just does not make sense, from its inexplicable title (they’re goblins, not trolls) to the nonsensical direction of the plot. What the purpose of the film truly is is anyone’s guess; it jumps from a supernatural ghost story, to a vacationing adventure in farmland, to a slasher focusing on characters that have nothing to do with the protagonists. In short, Troll 2 is not only a lesson on how not to direct a film, but also how not to write one.

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While the writing is terrible, the actors aren’t able to elevate it either. Some of it isn’t their fault; Fragasso clearly doesn’t know how to pull emotion from them, since everyone delivers their lines in a flat monotone lacking any sense of contextual meaning. George Hardy, playing dad Michael, has the interesting technique of looking angry yet putting no emotional heft into his line-reading. In the famous scene where he delivers his “You can’t piss on hospitality!” line, there’s even better comedy beyond that phrasing: the total lack of emotion as Michael spouts his entire backstory of how he spent his childhood hungry is par for the course with Troll 2, where characters simply supply exposition as though they’re reading it off an index card.

Where Hardy lacks dramatics, both Deborah Reed as Creedence Leonore Gielgud and Michael Stephenson as child protagonist Joshua more than make up for it. Reed in particular chews up every scene with her outlandish expressions; widened eyes, huge toothy smiles, and incredibly slow dialogue deliveries make her one of the best treats in Troll 2, and by best I mean worst. The same is true for Stephenson; his surprised expressions throughout the film indicate Fragasso was on the sidelines calling out directives with the gusto of a chef in a packed restaurant.

Even with all of the crazy, incomprehensible moments, though, Troll 2 often suffers from being just plain boring, the biggest death knell for a film of this ilk. While the film is so, so bad, it also doesn’t always hit those so-bad-it’s-good levels. Instead, its lack of plot direction and failure to do just about anything correctly makes it dead in the water almost the entire time. The gore effects are the best part, though they’re not always consistent.

Really, there’s nothing more to be said. Most readers know by now what Troll 2 is and whether they enjoy watching its crash and burn. And I believe that it is an important watch for any film fan, if only to see how things can go wrong so easily. The next time you see a bad movie, remember that the creators at least did something right so that the outcome wasn’t Troll 2-bad. This is a film that no one wants on their resume.

Best Worst Movie Review

best worst movieBest Worst Movie is the documentary that Troll 2 fans needed. It helps to provide a little closure about the people behind the film; it attempts to give context about how the movie was made. Whereas some making-of features are optional viewing experiences, Best Worst Movie is almost vital – it’s the police report after the inexplicable car accident, the Black Box that holds the key to the plane’s sudden malfunction.

Except Michael Paul Stephenson’s documentary doesn’t have too many answers. It almost presents more questions instead; by centering on the cast and crew of the film – chiefly George Hardy, and in smaller part Claudio Fragasso – Best Worst Movie often finds differing opinions on the downfall of the film. Amusingly, there’s probably no easy answer to what went wrong, except a combination of a poor screenplay from Rosella Drudi, poor direction from Fragasso, a language barrier between cast and crew, and a group of amateur actors finding it difficult to figure out their motivations.

Still, Stephenson attempts to piece together Troll 2 in the only ways he can. First, he highlights George Hardy, a hard-working Alabama dentist who happened to star in a terrible movie back in 1992. Structuring Best Worst Movie around Hardy is an excellent place to begin, because Hardy is often so excited and genuinely likable that the audience wants to follow him around. (Of course, later his excitement over being an iconic cult cinema actor wanes.) So Stephenson does just that, watching as he visits with fans of Troll 2 at special showings of the film and then at a horror convention where not many people seem to know him.

Hardy is the centerpiece of this documentary, but he often works as a contextual narrative to the film’s production. He’s able to explain quite a bit about where everything went wrong. But what he isn’t able to fill in, the secondary character actors do. Stephenson rounds up Connie Young, Robert Ormsby, Don Packard, and even Margo Prey for a look into their lives after the film hit cult status, but more than that, he’s able to characterize them instead of mining their memories. In some ways, it’s interesting to see how some succeeded after moving on from Troll 2, like Young. Others never really managed to overcome, and that’s sort of haunting in way that’s more widespread than just the film itself: Ormsby reflects on his life with a shrug and the statement that he “frittered” it away, sitting amongst the refuse of his house; Prey has become a sheltered woman caring for her ailing mother; Packard has managed to overcome some of his mental issues, but he’s still not all there. Stephenson looks at successes and failures, ones that might not be attributable to Troll 2 but to life itself.

The way Stephenson treats these people as human beings, rather than the poor actors many people often slam on Internet message boards and then forget about, is admirable, and it’s where the heart of Best Worst Movie lies. This may not be the best documentary, and its somewhat narrowed focus on Hardy is somewhat detrimental, but when Stephenson captures the other areas of what went into Troll 2, there’s real enlightenment here. Maybe it even helped Claudio Fragasso to move on, to accept the fact that his movie wasn’t the masterpiece he thought. Unfortunately, I doubt that, and I doubt that some of the other actors featured were able to move on from their hangups. But that I’m thinking about it at all is a tribute to the strength of Stephenson’s documentary on an inane film.

Special Features Review

Scream Factory has done a great job with the transfer on both of these films. Even the subtitles manage to capture Troll 2‘s ridiculous “Oh my Gooooooood!” dialogue. Picture quality is good for both Troll and Troll 2, and Troll‘s footage is about right in line with the transfers on the Ghoulies double feature.

Troll features a 50-minute making-of featurette with Charles and Albert Band as well as some of the special effects guys. It’s a great watch, and a nice new inclusion on this set. There’s also

Troll 2 includes audio commentary from George Hardy and Deborah Reed, as well as a theatrical trailer. If you didn’t get enough with Best Worst Movie (if you were able to grab that extra disc-ed package), then the commentary track is definitely worth a listen. Otherwise, there’s not much else on that portion of the release.

If you managed to get Best Worst Movie in your package, then you got a really good deal. If you didn’t, there’s still the 50-minute Troll documentary for a nice extra. This is an awesomely bad double-feature worth the money.

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