AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY: NOW, in the TROLL: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION Boxset
RUNNING TIME: 94 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Michael has always dreamed of being a farmer, and arranges a home exchange vacation in which he and his family will move into a house in the rural farming community of Nilbog for a month. His son Joshua is contacted by the ghost of his dead grandfather, Seth, who warns him that vegetarian goblins want to give the family poisoned food or drink that will transform them into plants so that they can eat them. Despite this, the family, plus Joshua’s sister Holly’s boyfriend Elliot and his mates, all head for Nilbog where the locals seem scarce and unwelcoming. Joshua must try to stop his family eating and drinking any local produce….
Most of us love a bad movie from time to time, and if you’ve been reading this website for a while, you’ll probably know from the selection of films that I review in addition to all the screeners I get that I probably love a bad movie from time to time even more than most, especially if it’s of the horror/sci-fi kind. I’ve done my best to extol the dubious virtues of the likes of Ape, Burial Ground and Starcrash, and I’m going to try to do the same with Troll 2, though believe me when I say it really is as awesomely rubbish at its reputation – I genuinely can’t think of anything that’s good about it. It’s not so much that the director and his cast and crew didn’t seem to care about proceedings, it seems more like the filmmakers and cast set out to deliberately sabotage the project – all of which in a way makes it funnier, though there were times when its badness gobsmacked me so much that even I wondered if I would survive the mess of terrible writing [yet quotable lines], amateurish direction, atrocious acting, shoddy continuity, total and utter lack of suspense, atmosphere, etc. This is a film which Syfy would probably turn down for not meeting their quality levels. It’s a film in which we’re told the time is 5.50 but the clock says it’s 5.55, a film in which a ghost is unable to stop people from eating deadly food yet is able to hack a goblin with an axe through a mirror later and produce an honest-to-god Molotov cocktail, a film in which our evil villagers cry out to our family: “There’s sandwiches for tonight in here. It’ll go easier if you eat them. Otherwise we’ll be forced to kill you – violently”.
Initially called Goblins, it wasn’t actually made as a Troll sequel at all, and began life when director Claudio Fragasso’s wife, Rosella Drudi, became irritated at some of her friends becoming vegetarians, whereupon Fragrasso decided to turn her ideas into a screenplay. The producer was Italian exploitation king Joe D’Amato aka Aristide Massaccesi, and those familiar with soft porn movies from that country will be interested to know that the costume designer was none other than Laura Gemser. It was shot on location in Morgan and Porterville, Utah by a production crew that was made up almost entirely of non-English-speaking Italians, while the cast was primarily assembled from residents of nearby towns who responded to an open casting call, hoping to win roles as extras. The script was written in a broken pidgin English which Fragrasso and Drudi also used to communicate with the cast, who understandably failed to understand much of what was going on. Many cast members claim that the screenplay was only given to them scene-by-scene, and that when they offered to correct their lines to sound more grammatically and syntactically correct, Fragasso demanded that they deliver their lines verbatim – though Fragrasso denies this. Because they thought it would have trouble making money, US distributor Trans World Entertainment decided to change its title and market it as a Troll sequel, something that also later happened to The Crawlers and Quest for the Mighty Sword, both of which are also known as Troll 3. The film still went unseen in cinemas – well, until many years later.
We open with Grandfather Seth telling his grandson what seems like a fairy story about Goblins, a young man named Peter and a pretty woman. There’s no attempt to introduce the Goblins dramatically – they just appear with their sacks and masks that are immobile except for a few of the mouths. What was odder to me though was the way Seth says the woman had: “huge eyes the colour of the sea” but they’re not huge at all. Meanwhile Joshua’s sister Holly wants boyfriend Elliott to decide between her or his mates: ”You take them to bed with us, and I don’t believe in group sex”. Fair enough. The family, plus Elliott and his friends, travel to Nilbog which nobody notices is “Goblin” backwards until much later on when somebody sees the word reflected – which is actually qodliN. I guess come to think of it it’s no more ridiculous than those several films where Dracula called himself Alucard, but Son Of Dracula [maybe not the others] is otherwise a very good movie so one can almost forgive its stupid writing with regard to a silly alias. Troll 2 by comparison is barely a movie at all, or at least not we know one. It feels like a bunch of aliens landed on earth right by a cinema, sneaked in to watch whatever film was showing [maybe it was Invasion Of The Body Snatchers], then decided to have a go themselves.
Everyone except Dad thinks it’s strange that Nilbog seems deserted but Michael reminds the others that, and in broad daylight: “At this time of night everyone goes to sleep, it’s a farming community”. Of course we already know that what inhabitants the place does have are vegetarian Goblins in disguise, and they want to turn these humans into food that’s safe for them to consume [there must be an easier way for them to eat surely?]. Only Joshua realises this and decides that he has to destroy or contaminate all of the food that the family finds or acquires. And that’s really it in terms of plot as the movie becomes a series of absurd scenes that barely relate to each other and which try to top each other in ineptness of execution. Seth freezes the family at dinner [yet the actors can be seen slightly shaking] so Joshua can save them – and save them he does by weeing all over the food – after which Michael yells to him: “You can’t piss on hospitality”. A seduction scene involving a corn on the cob that ends with popcorn from an offscreen popcorn machine flying everywhere. One of Elliott’s mates not being at all surprised when he [the first of the visitors to do so] encounters some Goblins who wound him with a spear, then just bloody stand there like lumps on logs while a girl removes the spear in one second and the two escape. These creatures are staggeringly pathetic throughout, especially during the poorest home invasion in movie history. But then the humans are mostly total idiots, especially the way they accept food full of bright green stuff with no fuss or questions.
It often seems like every time the camera shot changed, the crew completely forgot how the previous shot was set up, and had the cast members give their best guess on where they were supposed to be. There are a few moments like a camera zoom in on Joshua as he suggests holding a seance and sister saying “You’re a genius”, or a bit with a chainsaw, that seem tongue in cheek, as if the filmmakers realised what they had and added or adapted some scenes so they seemed intentionally funny. But for much of the time it honestly seems like nobody had no idea what they were doing. A good director can make amateur performers look reasonably good, but here we’re talking about the genius behind Monster Dog and Zombie Creeping Fresh. Though I will say that Michael Paul Stephenson isn’t a bad child actor [okay I’ve found something that’s relatively good about it], the acting generally tends to be either incredibly stilted, full of awkward line readings and pauses between sentences while the performer tries to remember his or her next line, or so over the top that you can smell the ham through the screen. Perhaps the finest/worse example of the latter is Deborah Reed as the Goblin witch Creedence Leanore Gielgud, it is honestly one of the most ‘all over the place’ performances you will ever see, though maybe I shouldn’t blame Reed too much what with all the nonsense her character is given like all that crap about the Stonehenge Magic Stone [though she actually seems to have two magic stones]. You do have to feel sorry for some of these performers given that they often have to describe what we are clearly seeing for ourselves on screen. The best acting is actually from a guy named Don Packard, even though he was a patient at a nearby mental hospital and got very stoned just before he turned up for his one-day shoot.
The Casio keyboard score rarely seems to relate to what’s taking place onscreen except for a variation on ‘You Can Leave You Hat On’. The editor was probably drunk. On the other hand the sermon on the evils of eating meat isn’t much different from some stuff I’ve heard from some people today, even though it’s a hilarious scene in itself. But I’m filled with questions, questions that just won’t go away. Why is all that Nilbog milk in that shop and what’s it supposed to do? Why does one character slowly turn into a proper plant instead of green gooey mess? How are the Goblins vanquished [you’ll see for yourself, I’m not going to spoil it] in the way that they are? How on earth did Fragrasso and co. think that their movie was fit for the inside of a cinema let alone the inside of somebody’s house? I still haven’t entirely processed what I’ve just watched, but I can totally understand its cult following, the love that many have for it. It’s virtually in a class of its own.
Rating: – but please don’t be put off, Troll 2 must be experienced by any true movie fan..
Troll 2 looks pretty good on Eureka’s Blu-ray, better in fact than Troll. All that bright green really pops out at you and the image is really sharp. Occasionally the odd black looks more dark grey, but overall this is a fine digital restoration of a film that unsurprisingly used to look pretty awful. As with the Scream Factory Region ‘A’ set of the two films, Troll 2 is the film that’s been given the royal treatment here with a second disc of related material, Eureka having ported over the same special features.
On the Troll 2 disc we have an audio commentary from stars George Hardy and Deborah Reed, and despite a few gaps it’s great. Hardy does the lion’s share of the talking though for much of the first half he’s too busy laughing at what’s unfolding in front of him. He does though provide plenty of recollection, while Reed just tends to pop in every now and again although she does talk more during her scenes. Both performers have clearly gone from being embarrassed about the film to loving it [he says it “ripens like a fine wine the older it gets” – does this mean that in years to come Troll 2 will seem even more awesome to me?] and the attention it now gets, Hardy saying how he often tours with the movie. He also praises the cinematography several times. Best Worst Movie is often mentioned. Sometimes Hardy runs out of things to say but I loved the unrehearsed feel of the commentary – you can even hear the two muttering in the background on what to say next. It’s wonderful that both actors are so game here. However, even better is the Creative Screenwriting Q and A audio track which plays over the film with Jeff Goldsmith, Hardy and Stephenson who of course not only starred in Troll 2 with Hardy but had just directed Best Worst Movie. Indeed most of the second half is about Best Worst Movie so my advice concerning the special features would be to watch Best Worst Movie first, then listen to the two ‘commentaries’. But the first half is just terrific, with Goldsmith asking the right questions and a sometimes bemused Hardy and Stephenson answering with good humour and some great stories. You learn a lot, such as the fact that the peeing scene wasn’t in the script. On the day of shooting Fragrasso suddenly asked Stephenson to do it. Stephenson’s recollection of being given the video as a christmas present and watching it with his family is hilarious, and just wait till you hear Drudi’s response when she was asked about that corn scene.
BEST WORST MOVIE
So disc two is devoted to this hour and a half documentary on Troll 2 and in particular its growth into a cult favourite with a worldwide, fanatical following. It begins rather slowly as it introduces us to small town dentist Hardy and then only gradually brings in the subject of the movie. Hardy and Stephenson tell of their realisation that Troll 2 had become somewhat popular by finding out on the film’s IMDB message board that there was a showing of it in a cinema that had otherwise only been advertised once on MySpace. Hardy went to it and found people being turned away because the cinema was so full, after which he decided to adopt the “If you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy. We follow him and sometimes other cast members around the United States, talking to many fans along the way. Especially interesting is when they find Fragrasso and tell him what’s going on. Convinced he made a good and even “important” movie, he and Drudi go along to a showing. He can’t understand why people laugh at stuff that isn’t supposed to be funny and, while he comes to the conclusion that it’s better to make an impression with a film then no impression at all, I still don’t think he understands. To be honest, he doesn’t come across as the nicest guy, disputing certain things that supposedly happened on set by calling the actors “dogs”.
The duo even visit the reclusive Margo Prey who plays Diana the mother in the film, and who both oddly and movingly says how she can’t come to a cast reunion showing. And even Don Packard appears, seen at a showing and touchingly saying how for once he was “thrilled at who he was”. We are even shown footage of them failing to attract much interest at conventions, whereupon they conclude that Troll 2 fans are a special breed. I concur while probably having now become one myself. I knew it would be fascinating, but Best Worst Movie also gets the viewer to feel a surprising range of emotions. It’s an absolutely wonderful documentary and one of the very best of its kind.
We are then treated to no less then 72 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes, beginning with more from Fragasso and even Drudi who barely said anything in the finished cut. Here she says how she was partly inspired by being an anorexic as a child and people trying to force her to eat. Much of the material just expand on stuff we’ve already seen, like Hardy and Stephenson being out of place at a horror convention, but it’s lovely to have more from Packard who regrets the bad things he did as a result of his mental illness in the first 40 or so years of his life, plus we talk to a few more cast members, see a Troll 2 fan film and even a superbly crap rap song. Then there’s also an Interview with Deborah Reed that largely expands on things she said during the audio commentary, but she’s great to spend time with and does some interesting things. And then there’s the “Monsterous” Music Video, another stupendously awful song with clips from the film.
Being as it consists of one good, fun B-movie, one of the worst [but funniest] films ever made, and a terrific documentary about the latter, Eureka’s Troll: The Complete Collection comes Unreservedly Recommended by the Doc. Buy it – though after seeing Troll 2 you may never be the same again – and I mean that in a good way. I think.
TROLL: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION SPECIAL FEATURES:
“Troll Empire” making-of [50:05 mins]
*Theatrical Trailer [2:45]
*Troll 2 audio commentary by actors George Hardy and Deborah Reed
*Creative Screenwriting Q&A audio track Track with Jeff Goldsmith, Michael Stephenson, and George Hardy [81.20]
Theatrical Trailer [2:18]
*Best Worst Movie [93:23]
*Deleted Scenes [72.40]
*Interview with Deborah Reed [13.01]
*Monsterous” Music Video [4:11]
*Theatrical Trailer [2:17]
FIRST PRESSING INCLUDES:
*Limited Edition O Card slipcase featuring artwork by Devon Whitehead
*Limited Edition collector’s booklet featuring rare archival material