This week, Scream Factory released a Blu-ray double feature of the 1986 film TROLL and its 1990 sequel (in name only) TROLL 2. Neither of these movies are very highly regarded, and yet the sequel has gained a cult following over the years due to how bad it is. Fans, and a documentary made about it, refer to it as the "best worst movie"... But is it really? To put the idea of TROLL 2 being a better bad movie than TROLL to the test, I watched them back-to-back, putting them into battle against each other for this week's Face-Off.
Harry Potter (no, not J.K. Rowling's boy wizard) has chosen the wrong apartment building to move his family into. When Harry's daughter Wendy wanders into the basement, she gets abducted by a shapeshifting troll who steals her identity and proceeds to attack and transform the building's residents into creatures straight out of fairy tales. It's up to young Harry Potter Jr. and the kindly old witch who lives upstairs to thwart the troll's reign of terror.
Spending their month-long vacation in the tiny town of Nilbog (population: 26) turns out to be a bad choice for the Waits family, as young Joshua quickly realizes that the stories the ghost of his Grandpa Seth has been telling him are true - goblins are real, and this town is overrun with them. After all, Nilbog is Goblin spelled backwards. Now Joshua has to stop the goblins from turning his family into their favorite food; half-human, half-plant hybrids.
FORCES OF EVIL
A really cool looking creature designed by FX artist/director John Carl Buechler and played by the great Phil Fondacaro, the troll used to be a powerful wizard named Torok, but was cursed into his current form for trying to take over the world with his fairy army. Recreating his mythical pals (more awesome Buechler creations, a few of them reminiscent of the Ghoulies) is his first step in his second attempt at world domination.
If you're expecting to see trolls in a movie called TROLL 2, you will be sorely disappointed. There are no trolls here, only the silly looking, spear-carrying goblins. These creatures, and the human residents of Nilbog, serve a queen "of ancient Druid origins" named Creedence. Creedence doesn't seem to be interested in ruling the world, she just wants to keep her goblins fed.
The apartment building is populated with an interesting group of eccentric characters who aren't used to their full potential, including a man who's vehemently anti-reading, a swinger played by Sonny Bono, and a wasted Julia Louis-Dreyfus. June Lockhart does quite well in the role of the witch, Phil Fondacaro has a wonderful dramatic scene while pulling double duty as a terminally ill English teacher... The least interesting character in the film is actually the primary protagonist, Noah Hathaway's Harry Potter Jr.
In the role of Creedence, actress Deborah Reed is the only person in the film who seems like she was making a choice with her performance, and she wisely chose to camp it up and chew the scenery. The rest of the characters are a dreadful, poorly written bunch, but they make an impression. Almost everyone in this film has an obsession: for Joshua, it's the goblins; for his sister Holly, it's boys and fitness; for her boyfriend Elliot, it's his friends; for Waits patriarch Michael, it's hospitality.
TROLL starts off heavy on intentional humor, but that gradually melts away as the movie starts taking itself and its scenario more seriously, for the most part. Michael Moriarty's Harry Potter gets to provide some laughs right up until the end, but the humor MVP for me in this one was Sonny Bono. Unfortunately, he's the first one to get removed from the film.
TROLL 2 is absolutely hilarious, and every bit of the likely unintentional humor in the film stems from its utter ineptitude. Inexperienced actors were given stilted dialogue to deliver, and they drop some howlers. Scenes are attempted to be played with a straight face, but they're impossible to take seriously, everything going on is so ridiculous.
WRITING / DIRECTING
The main failing of what Buechler and screenwriter Ed Naha delivered with TROLL is the fact that it has a split personality: it's a film aimed at children, with fairy tale elements and a child hero, and yet it's also a movie that features a hideous, creepy monster putting people through horrific transformations. It's too silly and kid-oriented for an adult viewer, maybe even for an adolescent, while being too heavy for the average child viewer. It's not terrible, it's just an odd movie.
Italian director Claudio Fragasso co-wrote the screenplay for TROLL 2 with his wife Rosella Drudi, and the problem was that they tried to write an English-language film even though they weren't fluent in the language themselves. Once on set with his American cast, Fragasso demanded that they deliver the lines exactly as written. That's how you get characters who speak so strangely and performances that are so bad. TROLL 2 is horrible, but it's fun to watch on occasion.
TROLL won this one handily, as it is clearly the better of the two films in my eyes... But isn't being called worse than its predecessor just part of TROLL 2's plan to take over the planet with its awfulness? It wants to be called bad and to lose competitions, because that just makes it more powerful.
Do you agree with the results, or do you feel that TROLL is a worse "worst movie" than TROLL 2? Post your thoughts below, and if you want to grab a copy of Scream Factory's Blu-ray double feature, you can do so on Amazon.
If you have any suggestions for movies that should be pitted against each other in future Face-Offs, let me know at CodyHamman@joblo.com.