Ahh, so bad it’s good. Movies of this sort are the reason I started blogging in the first place, even if I never link to my old blog because I’m not a fan of my older posts. Anyway, this sort of movie isn’t for everyone, and even for someone like me, who’s enjoyed hilariously bad movies for at last 15 years now, I need to be in the right mood. For the month, I’m going to introduce to you this sub-culture within the film industry. We’ll look at terrible movies from different decades, different genres, and potentially even different ways that they’re bad, to give you a general introduction to this fascinating element of the film world.
What better way than to start it off with the movie that introduced me to the “so bad it’s good” subculture, Troll 2?
Before we get into Troll 2, it’s worth talking about the first Troll movie for a moment. Troll released in 1986, and stars a young boy named Harry Potter who learns to become a wizard. I am not making this up. Troll not only features Harry Potter, but two Harry Potters: Sr. and Jr. It features a cast that includes Noah Hathaway (Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story), industry veteran June Lockhart (original Lost In Space TV series, and a number of movies and TV shows spanning from the 30s to last year), Phil Fondacaro (voiced a role in Disney’s The Black Cauldron, and regularly appeared in the Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV series), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (although she needs no introduction, Troll was actually her first movie appearence). Troll is by no means a good movie, but if you’re in the right mood, it can be cheesy fun.
Troll 2 is best described as a comedy horror film. It was supposed to be a cheesy horror movie with laughs here and there, and it is a very funny movie, but not how the crew intended. It was intended to be a good movie, with themes of family, love, and a criticism of vegetarian culture. We’ll get into that third part.
Troll 2’s development is actually well told in the 2009 documentary, Best Worst Movie. It helps that the documentary is actually directed by Michael Stephenson, the child star of Troll 2. It mainly follows George Hardy, the main star of Troll 2, whose main job in real life happens to be a dentist. He’s still practicing dentistry in his hometown of Alexander City, Alabama, at 67. The documentary also glimpses at other members of the cast and crew, including director Claudio Fragasso, and how he reacted to the movie’s notoriety.
Other cast members include Connie Young, who plays teenager Holly Waits. She performed scattered roles between Troll 2’s release and Doorway to Heaven in 2012. On that note, Stephenson plays Joshua, Holly’s younger brother, and Hardy plays their father, Michael. Margo Prey plays Diana Waits, the mother, and Robert Ormsby plays Grandpa Seth. Deborah Reed plays Creedence Leonore Gielgud, and her performance is far more over-the-top than the character’s name. She’s basically the main villain. While none of the cast enjoyed what you would call a life of fame, some of the cast members did have a mildly successful acting career. Last, but certainly not least, you’ve got Don Packard as a store owner. He wasn’t actually an actor, but was a patient at a nearby mental hospital. His entire involvement in the making of Troll 2 is that he got cast and filmed while on a day trip. Oh, and he was also very high on marijuana and had no idea what was going on.
Part of the difficulty with making this film is that, while most of the cast were Americans, the crew was made entirely of Italians. There was a serious language barrier on-set. The script included grammatical errors and nonsense dialogue, yet the cast were told to read it as is, not to mention they were often given the scenes’ scripts the day they were filmed. Despite the fact that the film is made in the state of Utah, with an all-American cast, it feels like a foreign film.
It’s also worth noting that Joe D’Amato produced the film. D’Amato was notorious for his views that profitability was more important than entertainment. Most of his films, both directed and produced, relied on minimal budgets, with a lot of them being exploitation films such as the Black Emanuelle series, Anthropophagus (a horror movie about a crazed cannibal), and I wish I was kidding about this title, Porno Holocaust. Because by the time that Troll 2 got made, D’Amato was blacklisted, he produced Troll 2 under the pseudonym David Hills.
So to sum it up, Troll 2’s development was plagued by a very low budget, featuring no name actors, most of which performed in only one or two other movies, and a crew that didn’t speak the same language as the cast. There’s more to talk about with the development of the movie, but instead of talking more, I would highly recommend watching Best Worst Movie. It’s actually a very good documentary.
When watching Troll 2, one of the earliest things you’ll notice is that there are no trolls in the movie. The villains are goblins instead. You’ll also notice that the troll costumes are cheap and ugly. Well, the ugly part is partly intentional, but a big part of that comes from how cheap they are. The costumes were mostly designed by Laura Gemser, who spent most of her acting career in D’Amato’s porn films. I’m not trying to say that pornstars cannot have other talents, but it sounds strange that a woman who made a career of wearing nothing is suddenly a costume designer. Nevertheless, she spent most of her later career on costume and set design and intentionally vanished from public life. It’s also worth mentioning that she was the only cast member who could speak fluent English.
You’ll also notice that the acting is all over the place. The dentist actually does a decent job at showing potential for his acting range, but all of his anger is overacted, and he often looks confused. He did actually take acting lessons at one point, before he switched over to dentistry. The mother character’s acting is very dry, but I wouldn’t say it’s monotone. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s pretty bad. Holly somehow both over emotes and under expresses at the same time in a performance that’s surreal. Grandpa Seth’s line delivery feels like he’s reading straight from the script for the first time, and is trying to emote based on what he’s reading. The Creedence character is way over-the-top in every way, from heavily exaggerated head movements to line deliveries that feel like they’re from a kid intentionally hamming it up for a comedic school play.
The goblins live in a town called Nilbog. See what they did there with the name? These goblins are hardcore vegetarians, but they also like people. So what do they do? They feed people this strange green goo that turns them into vegetables, and then they eat them. Apparently, writer Rosella Drudi (also the director’s wife) was very frustrated with several of her friends who recently became vegetarians.
So what’s the solution to cannibalistic vegetarians? Eating meat in front of them and then touching a magic rock. Well, touching a magic rock and concentrating, because “only the power of goodness can destroy these monsters.” Here are some other legendary lines from the movie.
Joshua “We need Grandpa Seth here!”
Holly “But how do we get him to come? By having a séance maybe?”
Joshua “You’re a genius big sister!”
Who calls their older sister “big sister” when talking to them like that?
“Grandpa Seth has been gone for more than six months now. You were at the funeral, and I know it was very difficult for you. It was also very difficult for your father, and for Holly, and for me his daughter.”
There’s a lot of clumsy exposition like this in the movie.
Uh … whatever that was.
What’s even crazier than the fact that this movie exists? It’s got 3 sequels that have nothing to do with each other, and two of them aren’t connected to either of the first Troll movies. The first released in 1993, and was partly directed by D’Amato. It’s got four official titles: Troll 3, Creepers, and Contamination .7, and my VHS copy uses The Crawlers. That one feels a lot like Troll 2 in terms of its acting, its messy story, and its nonsense plot, but this time the villains are killer trees. It’s even worse in terms of quality, but at the same time it’s not quite as entertaining.
The second of the three sequels also has 4 official titles: Troll 3, Ator III: The Hobgoblin, The Hobgoblin, and Quest for the Mighty Sword. Even though it’s called Ator III, it’s actually the fourth Ator movie, the third being called Iron Warrior (and the only one that D’Amato wasn’t involved with). The Ator series is basically a cash-in on the Conan the Barbarian craze, yet he accused Iron Warrior of being a cash-in. Regardless, Ator III is hilariously bad in its own way. Apart from its title, the only real connection it has to Troll 2 is that some of the goblin costumes are also in this movie.
The third sequel, released in 2020, is actually a sequel to Troll 2. A sequel to the movie was in the works for years, and at one point was called Troll 2: Part 2. Well, you very well couldn’t call it Troll 3 when there’s already two of them. In any case, Hardy actually reprises his role as Michael Waits in this sequel, which released on Amazon Prime first, and is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s called Under ConTroll. I haven’t seen it yet, but now that I know it exists, I plan to at some point, even though it’s apparently trying too hard to be hilariously bad, and is instead just bad.
By this point, you’ll know whether Troll 2 is the kind of movie for you. As for myself, I own this movie on Blu-Ray, and for a low-budget movie that went straight to video in 1990, the Blu-Ray looks surprisingly good. They managed to clean up the film quite well. Regardless of how you watch the movie, it’s so poorly made that it’s beyond “so bad it’s good”. It’s on a whole new level of hilariously bad. The story is ridiculous. The acting is impossible to take seriously, whether the actors are wooden or over performing. The dialogue itself full of weird grammatical mistakes, bizarre exposition, and phrases that no normal person would ever say. I love this movie, and I’m definitely not alone in that. So I’ll leave you with this joke clip acted by the dentist father from Troll 2, made for one of its theatrical screenings during its re-emergence as a cult classic.
I’m not telling which movie I’m looking at next week, because part of the fun of a theme month like this is to keep each week a surprise. Rest assured though, each week I’ll be looking at a terrible movie from a different decade. There will be at least one very obscure movie as well – one that’s not well known even among the “so bad it’s good” fandom.