Documentary Review: Best Worst Movie (2009/2010 DVD)
Michael Paul Stephenson's Best Worst Movie is a documentary film about the making of the 1990 low-budgeter, Troll 2. So, in essence, the scope of this review will be covering two movies rather than one. Until recently, Troll 2 could be watched legally and for free at Hulu.com. Sadly, it is no longer available. However you are able to see it, please realize that you owe it to yourself to see this impossibly bad Hindenburg of a horror film if you have not already. Keep reading and I'll explain why.
It was the summer of 1989 when filming began. It lasted three weeks in a small town in Utah. Michael Paul Stephenson was the child actor who landed the lead role of “Joshua Waits.” In this cultic-ular Italian-made movie, 10-year-old Joshua receives visions from his deceased grandfather, “Grandpa Seth” (Robert Ormsby), to persuade his family to leave the town of NILBOG where they are visiting before they are forced to eat green goblin foods. Eating these foods will turn them into a dissolving, leaf-and-branch, tree-human compost substance, killing them and making them an irresistible delicacy for the hungry goblins as it sends them into a gluttonous frenzy. These goblins don’t like bologna sandwiches, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
If you are already tempted to hunt around online for quick comments and reviews to give you an idea of just how bad it might be, please don't click away just yet. It should be considered an outright impossibility to overstate the depths to which Troll 2 sinks. The movie happens to be one of the few films on Rotten Tomatoes.com to get a full-on 0%. This is not counting the tons of movie blogs and websites that have it at the very top of every “Worst Movies of All Time” list ever compiled.
Not to be outdone by other super-stinker contenders, Troll 2 ably tops the likes of Alone in the Dark (2005), Mission to Mars (2000), Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), Monster a-Go Go (1965), Eegah (1962), and last, but certainly not least, Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966). This last one is no doubt a second-place contender to what occupies the number one slot in so many eyes: Troll 2. “And this is my movie about that movie,” says Stephenson.
Troll 2 is a stand-alone film, not in any way related to Troll (1985) or any other films with similar titles. Via admission of Stephenson, the name “Troll 2” is evidently a shameless attempt of Italian director Claudio Fragasso to ride on the comparatively successful coattails of the earlier, more popular 1985 film. Gratuitously bad as it is, Troll 2 is a freak not just in quality, but in name.
And there are no trolls in Troll 2, not even a mention of them – only goblins – a point that Fragasso and wife/writer Rossella Drudi chalk up in a question & answer forum to a matter of inter-language semantics. When asked how he feels about the movie, Fragasso replied: “I think it is very good movie. If others say it is the worst movie, that is their problem, not my problem.”
Warmly inspiring, as it deeply touches a wide array of emotions, Best Worst Movie is more than your ordinary documentary. It follows the lives of over 90 percent of the cast through the 20-year-long journey of life after Troll 2. It is funny, informative, and even a bit disturbing.
Joshua's TV father “Michael” (George Hardy) and sister “Holly” (Connie Young) and mother “Diana” (Margo Prey) are reunited in film as they share what it was like to be apart of the making of the world's worst movie. Joining the not-forgotten cast is “Arnold” (Darren Ewing), “Elliot Cooper” (Jason Wright), “Drew” (Jason Steadman), and the infamously sexy “Goblin Queen,” Creedence Leonore Gielgud (Deborah Reed), among others.
The documentary opens and spends a great deal of time with Hardy in his ordinary life, as this well-respected dentist and father is followed in his everyday routine. Nearly stealing the spotlight whenever he comes into view with his dynamic, movie-star smile and immaculate level of cheerleader charisma, Hardy is a hometown Alabama boy who opens up, along with the family and friends interviewed, on what it is like to be thrust into the spotlight 20 years down the road.
Perhaps the most entertaining focus is on the “behind the scenes” aspect of making the film. “I had no idea what I was saying or what I was doing. I don't know where we went or what we did, and I had no idea what the theme was. I was amazed at how creepy I was.” so said the NILBOG storeowner, played by Don Packard.
“We would sit there for hours and try and do an analysis of the scenes, and we couldn't,” says Hardy. In addition to a heavy language barrier between the Italian crew and American cast, director Fragasso knew exactly what he wanted and barked out orders accordingly: “Say the line! Say the line! Say the line!”
The cast reunited at the same old house (which had not changed much since the time of filming) with the lot of them again going over what it was like to shoot each scene. Fragasso's English is much better now than it used to be, but his personality has not changed. His vision for the film, if it were made today, would still result in the same hilariously mangled conceptual mess that it is. “How did I know there was a fire extinguisher there that whole time?” Hardy asks, still trying to make sense of his actions. “That’s no important!” the intimidating Italian director yells back.
The ultra-low budget and stingy provisions for the production were also an issue. Steadman recalls a time when his shirt was lost by the crew before his scenes were finished. Instead of being provided with another, he was told to go and buy one at his own expense. It is revealed in the plenteous commentary in the DVD Extras that the woman who rented them the house was extremely perturbed when Fragasso decided to rummage through her property to find food instead of springing to feed everyone. If the reports are true, it appears copyright laws weren't the only thing of low importance here.
Troll 2 was heavily promoted by the Utah Film Commission, but it won't surprise you to hear that the only way it was going to scare anyone except little kids was to scare them for all the wrong reasons. “Michael, your crappy movie is on again,” Stephenson recalls being told over and over by an uncle. As a young actor, he was devastated that the golden turkey of a movie he had hoped would put his name in lights could only be a blight on any acting resume.
But something happened. All these years later, the world began witnessing the birth of this now crazily addictive cult classic as it continues to amass crowds of admirers from all over. How does a movie fail in every gradable category and yet still draw such fringe interest? Tell me how a movie that is found in the “Holy Fucking Shit!” section of a video store become this much of a sensation? “The holy grail of bad movies” has people buying t-shirts and memorabilia...this is a sick world!
When asked what it is like to be the director of the world's worst film, Fragasso stated: “Being considered the worst movie is almost as much a compliment as being considered the best. It means I've made an impression.” And it's hard to find a flaw in his logic, which demands that we ask the question again: Is it really such a bad film? Is it truly a failure? Dare we call it that?
Yes, the extremes meet. And I suppose it's undeniable anyway, seeing Hardy, Stephenson, and the rest of the cast signing autographs and receiving standing ovations before crowds of hundreds, which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that being a star in the world’s worst movie is about as grand an honor as being a star in the world’s best.
Grade: A+ (4 stars) Recommended!
Rated: No MPAA rating
Director: Michael Paul Stephenson
Summary: A look at the making of the film Troll 2 and its journey from being crowned the "worst film of all time" to a cherished cult classic.
Starring: Michael Stephenson "Himself," George Hardy "Himself," Darren Ewing "Himself," Jason Steadman "Himself," Jason Wright "Himself," Ryan Martin "Himself," Kelly Jo Minter "Herself," Robert Ormsby "Himself," Don Packard "Himself," Scott Weinberg "Himself," Connie Young "Herself"