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Best Worst Movie
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by Jason Whyte

"The movie that explains why you can't piss on hospitality."
5 stars

SCREENED AT SXSW 2009: Prior to writing this review, I sat down with a copy of the 1982 film “Troll 2” for research. You see, "Troll 2", which has nothing to do with the first "Troll", has had the distinction of being #1 on the Internet Movie Database’s Bottom 100 list (it has since fallen over 75 spots, and the spot is now owned by the new Jonas Brothers 3D movie). And as it has been over a decade since I saw the film, I thought I would give it another go. I didn’t really think much about it upon first viewing; I was a lot younger then, and it was at a friend’s house when we were having one of our many parties. We sat down and watched the film and talked all the way through it, getting up and leaving at many points and coming back. To us it was just another one of those Z-grade horror flicks that we forgot about immediately after watching. Oh, we watched a lot of those…and those were the days.

Today, watching the film, I was just awestruck at the level of awfulness in this wonderfully stupid movie. Rubber looking goblins have taken over the town of Nilbog, Utah and anyone who enters the town is fed green goo or rotten milk to be turned into vegetables. The world’s dumbest family comes to town, a dead grandfather keeps materializing and only communicates with the son, and a whole bunch of overacting small town folk try to eat them alive and turn them into rubber masks. That difficult-to-ingest premise makes you wonder who the hell made this piece of work, which is simultaneously shameless, badly made and yet so much fun and entertaining.

As it turns out, the film WAS made as a serious project by an Italian film crew – led by serious and very stubborn director Claudio Fragrasso -- that had a language barrier between its actors, and they were strict on their actors to deliver their lines in exact verbatim as Fragrasso directed them to. As a result, the acting in this film is LEGENDARY awful, the kind where you simply can’t believe people can act the way they do, but it is here in glorious technicolor. And it is awesome to see.

Years after its release, “Troll 2” has earned cult status and a legion of followers. Regular screening parties are frequent and revival screenings have popped up all over the country from the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin to the Brattle in Boston, and in 2008 there was a screening in town in Utah where the fictional town of “Nilbog” was created.

Cut to today, and now the child star, Michael Paul Stephenson, is all grown up and has made "Best Worst Movie” about the sensation that "Troll 2" has caused on the film community. This is just about as perfect as a documentary as you can get; it is a great and entertaining love letter to bad movies and the cult status that can revolve around them. Yes, it feels a bit cliché to say, but to hell with it. I would recommend watching “Troll 2” beforehand but it isn't required; this documentary has so much heart and life in it that it left me with a big smile on my face.

I think the most winning aspect of this story is the fascinating study of Dr. George Hardy, who was awarded the lead part of Michael in the film while working in Utah and is today a successful dentist living in Alabama. Hardy, whom the film first studies, is a true people’s person, fully immersed in his community, a kind soul and always seen with a big smile on his face (even his ex-wife has nothing but good things to say about him). George is one of those guys you could crack open a few beers and hang out with pub night. The icing on the cake is George has nothing but love for the cult status of his picture and has no problem attending any special screening that turns up. He is also eager to meet any and all of his fans (as he and I did in March, 2008 and is a moment I'll never forget).

The way this documentary studies George Hardy is so fascinating that even if the film was just about him and his dedication to his career and reaction to "Troll 2", this would be a fascinating look into a unique person. However "Best Worst Movie" also covers all the other aspects of “Troll 2” from the adoration and reaction of the film, to the various screenings of the film and the where the cast and crew have been since rolling camera twenty years ago. Among them are Fragrasso who has attended some of the revival screenings and still doesn’t understand why everyone is laughing at his masterpiece; Jason Steadman, who was initially embarrassed by his then teenage performance but now embraces it just like the others; the lovely Connie Young who plays "Big Sister" and is now a successful actress, mother-of-three in Utah; and Margo Prey, the unforgettable mom from "Troll 2" who has clearly went off the rails of the crazy train years ago and hasn’t realized it. Her few scenes in the documentary have to be seen to be believed.

As the documentary progresses, we come back to Dr. Hardy, the film's most fascinating study, as he goes to a few fan conventions and is shocked to discover that his appearance at a convention in London is severely unattended, and a screening in his own hometown isn't as embraced as it is by the major city screenings. I also began to wonder if Hardy would ever consider getting back into movies again. I believe he has the personality, good looks and charm to appear in movies again, and some of the people interviewed in the film agree with that opinion. Hardy also winds up seeing the film far too many times, something which would be annoying for anyone.

Stephenson tells the story well, balancing the talent along with the fans and critical reaction (even our own Scott Weinberg, now writing at Cinematical and FearNet, is interviewed towards the beginning), finalizing with the entire cast and crew at a reunion in Morgan, Utah for a special screening put up by the Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow series, taking place at the very location they filmed. These scenes are the emotional high point of the film, as it shows not only the reaction a film has earned over the years, but how a group of people who made a film like THIS can appreciate the people that have come to love it.

“Best Worst Movie” had three terrific screenings at South by Southwest and is currently making the rounds at festivals in the US and Canada. I see a bright future for the film and I hope it finds its audience down the line and gets a theatrical release, or at the very least one hell of a Blu Ray/DVD release featuring both "Troll 2" along with this documentary. And here's hoping for some cast and crew commentaries, featuring the amazing Dr. Hardy, someone who I hope to see in “Troll 2: Part 2" one day.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18414&reviewer=350
originally posted: 03/19/09 03:25:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival of Boston 2009 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival For more in the 2009 SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Starz Denver Film Festival For more in the 2009 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/21/14 Richard Brandt BEST WORST MOVIE: Accidental celebrity as first bracing, then unnerving, finally tiresome 4 stars
6/07/10 David Hollingsworth Insightful on every level! 4 stars
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  DVD: 16-Nov-2010


  DVD: 16-Nov-2010

Directed by
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