MAY 21, 2010
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)
Embracing bad movies is a pretty big part of being a horror fan, but it’s rare to see the guys involved with those movies take part in that loving mockery in any meaningful way. However, Michael Stephenson decided to make Best Worst Movie, which explores the “cult” of Troll 2 fans, as well as the impact the film has had on the lives of those who made or starred in it, including the now adult child actor who played the lead role - Michael Stephenson.
Yes, the kid who was attempting to piss on hospitality is the man behind this tribute documentary, which largely focuses on George Hardy (who played his father in the film), who attempted an acting career (which consists of Troll 2) before returning to dentistry in his Midwestern hometown. When Stephenson learned about what a cult movie Troll 2 had become, he and Hardy began appearing at screenings and traveling to conventions, in bewildered but genuine awe at how “beloved” their stupid little movie had become. Over the course of the film, it becomes obvious that Stephenson and Hardy are good friends who never would have met had it not been for Troll 2, and thus even though the movie is awful, the fact that it spawned such a charming friendship (and a great documentary) more than makes up for the “sequel’s” shortcomings.
By now most horror fans know the real story behind Troll 2 - there are no trolls, as it was filmed as a movie about goblins (the original title escapes me) and retitled to cash in on the video success of the first (equally bad) Troll, which at least had trolls. And its director, Claudio Fragasso, along with his screenwriter wife didn’t really speak English during filming, so there was almost zero communication between him and his crew, resulting in a disconnect unlike anything ever seen - bizarre tonal shifts, completely incoherent plot points, off-kilter line readings (due to poor translation I assume)... the whole nine yards.
Thus, the highlight of the movie is the section where Fragasso takes part, as he has no idea how much people mock his movie, and doesn’t quite get that he’s been making fun of (at least for a while). He also remembers things differently than the actors - there’s a great scene where he’s sort of pacing around a convention, arguing with the actors on stage or simply muttering under his breath whenever the actor on stage (I'm not sure why Fragasso is in the crowd instead of on stage with everyone else) would provide another possible explanation for the film’s wackier moments (i.e. "I couldn't understand what the director was saying.").
It’s not all fun and games though; it’s actually a touch depressing at times. Later in the film, Stephenson and Hardy (and the camera crew) fly to England for a horror convention, and they end up doing a panel/Q&A for about 6 people, including two elderly folks that look like they just came in for the seat. Then they hit up another horror con in TX, and discover they aren’t quite as big of a draw as say, Erika Anderson from Nightmare 5 (though she has a Freddy’s Dead poster behind her for some reason), and Hardy has an (off camera, sadly) soul-crushing encounter with Neil Marshall before deciding he doesn’t want to be there anymore and has everyone pack up and leave early (he doesn’t seem to be a big fan of tattoos or piercings on people, either).
Also, actress Margo Prey (who played Stephenson's mother) is quite obviously batshit in real life. While it actually gave Troll 2 a whole new level of oddness to enjoy, I felt a bit uncomfortable listening to her at times, especially when they go back to her house a 2nd time in order to try to convince her to come to a cast reunion in Texas, as she would be the only one not there. She declines on account of a loud sound that only she hears (which she mimics for their benefit) and her desire to go live somewhere where no one would ever find her or talk to her. O...K... Now, I’m not vilifying them, they aren’t exploiting her or making fun of her in even the most remote sense - it’s just a bit counteractive to the rest of the movie, which IS fun and somewhat silly, such as when Hardy picks up an obviously much heavier Stephenson and re-enacts the “hospitality” scene.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, NONE of the people in the movie have gone on to have any meaningful careers in film (not for a lack of trying in many cases, though more than a few simply have moved on to other careers by choice), and more than once they seem to be suggesting that it’s Troll 2’s fault, and not that they are simply lousy actors. I mean, Christ, if George Clooney can survive the Returns of Horror High AND Killer Tomatoes, I’m sure some of these folks could have survived Troll 2 if they had the talent to back it up. And it stands to reason that the awful performances are a big part of why the movie has such a following, so if they were all great in it, there probably wouldn’t be a documentary about it today, placing them all in further obscurity.
The doc was followed by a Q&A with Stephenson and Hardy, plus a few others that worked on the film (sadly not Connie "Holly" Young, who has aged into a very attractive woman and seems to be the least tolerant of all the folks in the movie - she leaves it off her resume - so it might have been fun to see her reaction to the film itself, which followed the Q&A. Now, as I am not a big fan of the movie, and it was pretty late (almost 1 am by the time it started, following a day spent mostly on my feet), I slept through about half, though seeing it with a different context (i.e. that the mother truly IS crazy) and with a big crowd was certainly fun while I was awake to experience it. And my friend Kolleen was in town and IS a big fan, so she was having a blast getting to see the film on the big screen, so hurrah!
As I’ve said millions of times, every movie ever made is SOMEONE’s favorite movie, and for those who are in the Troll 2 “cult”, I can’t imagine a better gift to fans than a documentary about it made by the star of the movie (as opposed to some superfan who would probably spend most of the movie trying to defend it). Stephenson and the others know it’s a bad movie, but a special one all the same, and Best Worst Movie is a terrific example how to celebrate something bad without being ironic (or worse, arrogant).
What say you?