Best Worst Movie: So Bad, It's Good defined
"Troll 2" is a weird movie. The basic story has a fairly typical family going on an exchange vacation with a family from the town of Nilbog, who discover that the residents of the town are goblins trying to turn them into plants so they can eat them. As a story, it's already a bit hard to make appealing to the general public. Combine that with a script written by Italians who can't speak English very well, acted by a group of relative newcomers whose acting styles gravitate either towards cardboard or scenery chewing, and directed by a man who believes himself to be significantly more competent than he actually is, it is most definitely not a good movie.
And yet, as the documentary "Best Worst Movie" argues about the 1989 cult classic, there's a certain deranged watchability to the film; you can't look away at its magnificent horribleness.
It doesn't hurt that, as the documentary demonstrates, many of the actors involved in "Troll 2" seem like genuinely nice people. Of particular notice is George Hardy, who played the father of the family, who, as the documentary begins, is working as a dentist in his small Alabama hometown. Literally everyone in Alexander City, Alabama has something nice to say about George (even his ex-wife!), but he was just a dentist to everyone until suddenly "Troll 2" started to show up in the newspapers. Apparently, 17 years after "Troll 2" came out, it got popular with people discovering its strange charm. This film, produced and directed by "Troll 2"s former child star protagonist, documents George discovering that he is a minor cult figure to a certain sort of fan, and reveling in his new status, all the while unsure if being known for being a bad actor is that great an accomplishment.
The reactions of the various former actors is interesting. Generally, when you watch the "making-of" features for a film, the actors always say something nice, even if it is obvious you have a stinker on your hands. Not these people: one actress talks about how being in this movie means that it's hard to get more film work, another actor mentions how he was on leave from a mental hospital for the duration of the shooting and was incredibly high the entire time, several others grumble about how they had to buy their own costumes (or have their clothes and shoes ruined unceremoniously by the film's effects), almost everyone grouses about the confusing direction from the non-English speaking crew, and everyone is somewhat surprised by the cult classic status of the movie, although some of them at least (George Hardy, especially) grow to like it as they meet people who love it.
One person who does think the movie is good is director Claudio Fragasso, who believes he made a movie with classic themes of family and struggling against adversity. When he initially hears about the resurgence of popularity of "Troll 2", he and his crew believe that they've finally be vindicated, that people have finally seen the genius of their film. When Fragasso meets the movie's actual fans, however, it's amusing to watch his irritation at how flippant they are about its cheesy horribleness. A scene late in the documentary where the actors come to a festival in the small Utah town where "Troll 2" was shot and discuss the trials and tribulations of being directed by Fragasso (who refused to allow them to change the script so it could be more comprehensible), while Fragasso himself is in the audience heckling them by yelling out at how horrible they were as actors really shows off the divergence in opinions on the film.
The film also reflects on the trickiness of being a "So Bad, It's Good" movie. Multiple critics and pop culture analysts are interviewed throughout the documentary, and all of them have a tricky time defining what exactly makes "Troll 2" so compelling a film, what about it preserves its entertainment value whilst it is a failure on almost all other fronts of filmmaking. When George goes to various venues where most of the people are not "Troll 2" fans, it's clear that many are confused as to why they should watch "the worst movie ever made." He and the other actors also all are somewhat uncomfortable that perhaps their greatest claims to fame is that they were terrible actors in a bad movie.
As George Hardy sits forlornly at a horror convention next to actors who appeared in the various "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies, he muses on whether being known primarily for something you did 20 years ago is really that great for the soul. This helps add a somewhat bittersweet and melancholy note to this celebration of terribleness: as great as it is to be known for delivering a silly line about "pissing on hospitality" it also hurts somewhat if that's ALL you're know for.
All in all, this is a great film, even if you're unfamiliar with "Troll 2." If you aren't, this movie might encourage you to watch it. If you have a low tolerance for nerdy or fandom phenomena, this may not be the film for you, but if you enjoy cult classics or people's reactions to them, you should check it out.
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