November 26, 2010

If you’ve ever wondered why Troll 2 is a cult classic, here’s a quick explanation: It’s a movie entitled Troll 2, but features no actual trolls (they’re goblins). And that’s only one small reason why the 1990 horror/fantasy/awful film has become a revered in bad movie circles, and has perennially topped lists of the worst films of all time. For child star Michael Stephenson it was a learning experience, as when he finally saw the film (it went direct to video and cable stateside), he was crushed by its terribleness. But the legend/legacy of the film is still strong, and the film has attracted a rabid cult for its amusing incompetence. And so Stephenson decided to make a documentary not just about the film’s fanbase, but also rounds up all the stars he can to discuss their experience making the “Best Worst Movie” ever made. And my review of Best Worst Movie on DVD follows after the jump.

All documentaries have stars, be they heroes or villains, and though many of the personalities of the production leave indelible impressions, the film belongs to George Hardy – who plays the father in the film – and director Claudio Fragasso. Hardy is a dentist who loves performing and acting, and when confronted with the opportunities that his newfound cult status allows him, he’s happy to quote the film, and goof on how terrible it is as long as he’s the center of attention. The yang to Hardy’s yin is Fragasso. When he comes face to face with a laughing audience, he’s insulted – he believes in the integrity of his work. Both come across as rounded personalities, and though Hardy may be delusional, he seems amiable and sympathetic. He’s someone who’s always wanted to be an entertainer, and takes that to the logical limit in that he seems to have no shame except when being ignored.

They are the anchors of the film, but the film starts by talking to the fanbase. Many have seen the film over and over, and love to show the film to the uninitiated. The film highlights some of the most famous bad sequences, and has fans act them out. The film then talks to people like critic Scott Weinberg, and cinema programmers Tim League, Jesse Hawthorne Ficks and Zach Carlson (who got a Troll 2 tattoo) about the appeal of the film. They do an okay job at talking about why the film has hit. Part of me would have liked Stephenson to widen his net here and talk about films like The Room, and the minor cultural obsession with terrible things, especially bad movies, but that’s not the focus of the film. Still, the obsession is party a backdrop to getting the band back together.

From there the film goes on to talk to many of the cast. And the people who made the film are a strange collection of actors. Margo Prey – who is very reluctant to embrace her cult status as the mother of the family – was the most reticent to talk about the film, and there good reasons why. She also takes care of her ailing mother, and lives with numerous cats (and seems to have had some plastic surgery), but still has dreams of making more movies This collection of actor interviews runs the gamut from the the centered and bemused to the full blown delusional. There’s the sad – like Robert Ormsby, who plays Grandpa Seth – who recognizes the film’s problems, but then talks about himself and his career, and admits that he’s mostly wasted his life. Then there’s someone like featured player Don Packard, who has obviously gone through some mental and emotion issues that are still unresolved. There are those who are obviously reasonably adjusted, like Connie Young – an actress who wants the world to forget her involvement with Troll 2, but knows that she has to put it on her resume because she has to live with it.

But the final act focuses on Hardy and Stephenson hitting the con circuit, hanging with people who appeared in one film of the Nightmare on Elm St. franchise, and tattooed horror fans who don’t really seem to care much for Troll 2. Hardy gets the full experience of people who love his film and the people who could care less. He also gets to show it to his community, and you can see that people came out because he’s so endearing. He loves his experience, he loves being the spotlight, and he’s so harmless that friends and acquaintances will happily suffer through 95 minutes of his terrible performance.


And though the film feels a little bit formless at time, Stephenson does a great job of capturing all the facets of what being a cult success means for everyone involved. And there’s a balance to it as well, as Fragasso’s mildly insulted filmmaker shows the wounded heart of an artist, whose work is received in the wrong way – even by the passionate Alamo Rolling Roadshow tour crowd. Best Worst Movie may seem like a film only for fans of Troll 2, but the human truths of its cast of characters make it compelling regardless. For reference: Imagine if Waiting for Guffman was real.

Docudrama films presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and in 2.0 Stereo. The documentary was shot on video, and the presentation is perfect for what it is. As for extras, there is a collection extended interviews/deleted scenes with the fans and the people involved in making Troll 2 (58 min.), and this followed by a Troll 2 rap (4 min.) a parody of the film (6 min.), an interview with Deborah Reed – the Troll 2 Goblin queen (13 min.), an interview with Stephenson and Hardy (4 min.), a second Troll 2 rap (4 min.), the film’s trailer, and the creative screenwriting podcast with Stephenson and Hardy (82 min.).

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