The Second Part
So Troll 2 is a spectacle of a movie – it’s so bad in every aspect that it should be indefensible, but somehow it comes out as a glorious, beautiful butterfly of a bad movie. Everything about it is awful. The acting is stale and the writing is confusing. The storyline is so botched that it may very well have come from a coke-addled mental patient, and the special effects are like something a couple of college kids threw together in an afternoon. The directing is a cobble of ridiculous close-up shots and nonsensical ideas that make the film even more of a headache, when it isn’t side-splittingly funny. These things are basically ironclad facts. So why do we love it so much?
Director: Michael Stephenson
Starring: Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Claudio Fragasso, the rest of the Troll 2 cast
Best Worst Movie, released in 2009, is a documentary made by the lead actor of Troll 2, Michael Stephenson, who played Joshua the wonder kid in the movie, and it attempts to shed light on these questions. In Best Worst Movie he takes a camera and documents the cult phenomenon that Troll 2 has grown into, with showings all over the world and lots of devoted fans who don’t quite fit into any other fanbase. Lots of shots are used of people in low-fi theaters laughing their asses off at the movie. It’s heartwarming and really cool to see how a movie like this has affected people. Some journalists quoted in the film call Troll 2 ‘the Rocky Horror of the Myspace generation,’ which is about as accurate a description as anyone can come up with.
But the real treat is seeing what all the stars from the movie are doing 17 years later. George Hardy, who played the dad in the movie, is given a lot of the spotlight, because he is honestly just a cool, wacky character. He’s a dentist in a small town in the Midwest who is well-loved by everyone he knows and a popular face in town even without the Troll 2 fame on his back. You see a lot of dimensions from astonishment that his movie is finally being recognized to discouragement when he goes to conventions and nobody knows him. Some of the best scenes are the actors re-enacting scenes from the original film all these years later. The one with Hardy, Stephenson and Margo Prey doing the “row row row your boat” scene is priceless.
The disconnect between the director’s intentions and the critical reception is just insane here. Claudio Fragasso fashions himself, apparently, a pro filmmaker, and seems to honestly kind of resent the way everyone just laughs at Troll 2 now. To his credit, he does seem to like playing to the crowd for laughs, but I don’t know, the look in his eyes just seems a little annoyed at it all, and he comes off as pretty pompous really. Both he and his wife, who wrote most of the script and story, just can’t seem to see what about the movie is so funny.
The real thought provoking things in this film, though, are the actors who are…different. Like Margo Prey, who played the mom in the movie, and who is obviously a bit off. She’s just a little odd and you feel sorry for her because she doesn’t seem like life’s given her its best hand. Same thing for the general store guy in real life – he lives alone and just doesn’t seem terribly well-off. He tells the story of how he got the part: he was a mental patient at the time, self-admitted, and had no idea where he was or what he was doing. “It wasn’t acting,” he says, and he means it. He also says that when he got on stage at one of the Troll 2 screenings, it was “the first time he ever felt happy with himself, in his life.” That’s really touching, and brings the movie to another level. If a movie like this can make somebody feel like that, I don’t care what you say, it’s not a bad movie. No movie that makes a person feel that way can ever be bad.
Best Worst Movie is a documentary about people. If you want a film that just makes fun of a bad old 80s movie, look elsewhere. This just takes a strange, unique situation from years ago (the filming of Troll 2) and catches up with everyone to see what their lives are like afterwards. It shows that people in terrible movies are just people, too, and that the line of quality between good and bad movies is really rather blurry – what critics and popular opinion says really matters way less than people think. Movies are so much more than just black-and-white good or bad. They’re hard work by lots of people, and Best Worst Movie shows that through every pore, through every odd humorous anecdote and every cheering crowd. For that Best Worst Movie has left an impact on me.
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