Welcome back to another installment of Bad Movies with Brad, in which I slowly attempt to melt all your brains into goo from exposure to the truly horrible in cinema. Speaking of melting into goo, this week we’ll be taking a look at the so called “Best Worst Movie” Troll 2. Why you ask would I give you another one of the very worst films ever made the week after The Room? Three reasons: one, we had planned this before The Room; two, apparently I’m just a jerk like that; and three, if watching bad movies is a game it’s definitely Dark Souls.
Before we begin, you’ll notice right away that Troll 2 breaks one of the bad movie rules, specifically my no sequels policy. This particular nugget of awful is an exception due to it being soooo bad, and the fact that it isn’t actually a sequel to 1986’s Troll at all. In fact the filmmakers of Troll 2 made a movie called Troll 2 in which the monsters are….that’s right. Goblins. Yes goblins, because this movie’s title was changed after the success of the original Troll. So it’s actually a blatant cash grab, (That’s rule #2) and I’m okay with it breaking that rule too, because it is so stupid, so terrible, so incomprehensible, I have to share it with you, my
victims readers. A word of warning though, if you tend to snack while watching your bad movies you may want to finish beforehand as this movie is…weird about food.
While Trolls don’t appear in this movie, and I’ll remind you, they don’t, I’m fairly sure several of them were involved in the production process. The director, Claudio Fragasso, a low budget director from the Italian exploitation film industry directed under a pseudonym. The producer Joe D’Amato mainly produced porn at the time and was known for his philosophy that the content of the film was unimportant as long as it made money. The screenwriter was Fragrasso’s wife, Rosella Drudi who wrote the script out of frustration that most of her friends were becoming vegetarians. I would also mention that neither Fragasso, nor Drudi spoke English fluently and the actors said they were told to say the lines exactly as written.
A mostly Italian film crew descended upon two small towns in Utah, most likely the cheapest locations available, and recruited literally anyone who wanted to be in a film. One particular actor, Don Packard, was a patient at a nearby mental health facility and did his part on a day trip where he smoked a lot of marijuana beforehand and had no idea what was going on. He’s since characterized his performance as, “not acting.” Goblin costumes were made from burlap sacks and cheap, creepy rubber masks one of which, does not match.
All of them have black eyes, all of them. Except this one, which looks, so much cheaper than the other ones and is always dead center in the frame. Honestly if it weren’t for the troll production crews blatant desire for this film to make as much money as possible I would suspect this one of being a joke.
Troll 2 begins with a kindly, grandfather reading a story to his grandson, a story about evil goblins who chase you down and assume human form to trick you into consuming “food” which turns you into their favorite food, half human, half plant. I assume the goblins figured this out through some kind of peanut butter and jelly moment. If you’re thinking this sounds like one creepy ass story to read to your grandson you would be right because the grandfather, Grandpa Seth, is dead. Yes, he’s been talking to his grandson Joshua (Michael Stephenson) from beyond the grave for six months, telling him to beware of the goblins. His parents think this is just stress though, and will probably be helped by their upcoming family vacation, a house swap with a family in a town called “Nilbog” which if you haven’t gotten the joke now, I’m not going to spoil that shocker for you. Joshua and Grandpa Seth’s warning however, and their subsequent efforts to get everyone else to leave Nilbog because they can’t see it is obviously infested with Goblins are not going to be my focus however, my focus is going to be on the supremely weird plot playing out in the adjacent room.
Joshua’s older sister Holly (Connie McFarland) is having issues with her boyfriend, Elliot (Jason Wright) who is, a giant tool. Bigger, in fact than the the movie thinks he is. Elliot sneaks into Holly’s bedroom the night before the trip, ostensibly for sex. He also brings his three friends along to, I don’t know, hold the ladder? Watch? I can’t even tell you if it’s supposed to creep you out or not. You can’t let these little things confuse you when you’re watching something like this. During their conversation Holly punches Elliot in the groin and his response is “Are you nuts? You tryin’ to turn me into a homo?” While I sit down and think about the things I need to scream at the writers you remember the blatant homophobia for later. Holly thinks that Elliot has been spending too much time with his friends, and she wants him to come on their family vacation. Elliot agrees to ditch his friends and come on vacation with them.
He, obviously, does not show up. The father, Michael (George Hardy) waited a whole half hour for him. Which is about how long I’d wait for the little jackass, but Holly is distraught. She’s even more distraught when Elliot turns up along the side of a highway in a Winnebago with his boys, waving at them from the side of the road. Why he ditched his girlfriend, who implied she’d have sex with him on the trip will become apparent soon. What never becomes apparent is how in one night he managed to get a Winnebago, convince his friends to come along and leave early enough in order to be ahead of them on the trip.
Both groups arrive in Nilbog and the games begin, Goblins in human form try to get everyone to eat their “food”, Joshua and Grandpa Seth try to stop it. Reminding you of my warning at the beginning the food in this movie is gross I don’t why it all looks so bad, surely the Italians who made this movie had eaten food at one point. Perhaps we’re supposed to be aware of the goblin food being vegetarian and thus “wrong” but even things that are supposed to be enticing look awful. As is usual with these I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot for you but there is one aspect that I must, must talk about.
(You have no idea how loud Clarice screamed that heading when I screened this.)
Elliot and his three friends spend the night outside Nilbog. For every second they are on screen they proceed to, and I’m not even exaggerating, talk about finding “hot, available girls” and “loose women”. They do this for the whole movie up until this point, in fact, his friends say the reason they agreed to come is because he promised them Nilbog was full of women. They are named but, honestly, I cannot remember them being called by name in the movie. I’m sure it happens, but I’m going to call them Glasses, Complainer, and Popcorn. Stay with me. The day they arrive Glasses hears a woman running through the woods, and chases after her. He winds up running into the lair of Creedence Leonore Gielgud: Of Ancient Druid Origins (Deborah Reed) the goblin queen. She speaks in a thick Tommy Wiseau accent and proceeds to turn them into plants. Like you do. The next morning Complainer realizes that they neglected to bring food for their week long vacation, and after complaining to Elliot he leaves and this happens.
I’m just, well I’m going to leave that there.
The Best of the Worst
Usually when I select our Bad Movie Hero I really have to stretch to find one person who saved the movie. This week I have the opposite problem. The whole cast is full of actors who while they are being mandated to say lines verbatim out of a script written by a couple with the barest understanding of English, are really trying their best to do a good job. And we know this because we have Best Worst Movie. Twenty years after Troll 2 came out Michael Stephenson made a documentary about his experience with the film and the cult phenomenon that sprung up around it, and if you watch one, you really should watch the other. Best Worst Movie lets you meet so many of the people behind this trainwreck and for the most part they’re all wonderful people. Michael Stephenson almost wins just because of that, but unfortunately he gave me all I needed to decide on the person who edged him out.
George Hardy is a dentist from Alabama who also enjoys the hell out of acting. He is also, pretty much the nicest guy ever. Even before you see Best Worst Movie when he’s stuck playing Michael Waits he is a joy to watch. The way none of his shirts are ever buttoned up more than half way. The way he says “You can’t piss on hospitality!” The way he puts out a burning goblin preacher with a fire extinguisher he couldn’t know was there. But then you watch Best Worst Movie and you want to go fishing with him. So for just being all around awesome George is our Bad Movie Hero.
(Plus I have no idea who thought up the Winnegaygo)
So make sure you eat first, and watch Troll 2 then grab Best Worst Movie for an amazing double feature. One thing I can say for it is while it is by any metric one of the worst films you will ever see, it will never stop surprising you. And in rewatching Best Worst Movie in preparation for this article, it reminded me why Troll 2 gets a treasured place on my movie shelf and Transformers 4 never will. What it is about these bad movies that makes us love them. And oddly enough Best Worst Movie put it into words for me. And those words come from the most unexpected source. Claudio Fragasso, he of the exploitation B movies, at the end of Best Worst Movie sums up watching movies in general, and watching bad movies even more:
“All movies must have a single quality, a film must move you, I have to be moved by the movies I see. If the film moves me in any way, whether it scares me or makes me laugh, whether it makes me think, or makes me cry, whatever the feeling is, the movie has to give me an emotion. What I don’t accept are cold, emotionless movies.”
Troll 2 is many things. Strange, poorly made, cheaply produced, but it is certainly not emotionless. You’ll feel disgust, confusion, shock, and so many emotions you won’t have any idea how to define. And I’d watch it over a Transformers movie any day.