Reviews

Michael Stephenson

USA, 2009

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Review by Rumsey Taylor

Posted on 23 March 2009

Source 35mm print

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Troll 2

Categories The 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival

The appeal of Best Worst Movie is contingent upon the unique interest surrounding the 1990 horror film Troll 2, which is a burgeoning cult attraction. The documentary film includes interviews with many involved in the latter’s production: actors George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, and Connie Young (the nuclear family who’s victimized in the film); director Claudio Fragasso and his wife, screenwriter Rossella Drudi. Most of them are fully aware that the film is considered – and lauded – as a failure in every evaluative regard.

Given this, it’s difficult not to perceive Best Worst Movie as a propagandistic companion to Troll 2, endeavoring to cement its status as one of the worst movies ever made. Even so, it remains worthy propaganda, as evidenced by the eagerness of the original cast to participate in this film (it’s directed by Michael Stephenson, who portrayed young Joshua in Troll 2). Responsibly it summarizes the present location of the main cast and crew, and includes their responses to their idiosyncratic fame.

But this responsibility isn’t what makes Best Worst Movie as good as it is, and it doesn’t force its appreciation of Troll 2 as you would expect. George Hardy, the father, remains the strongest proponent here, and he’s apparent in almost every scene; the film includes screenings and conventions across the US and in the UK, and he’s at each one (and at most of them enthusiastically reenacting the famous “YOU DON’T PISS ON HOSPITALITY!” line, including at the screening I attended). But George’s acceptance isn’t descriptive of all involved. The bench-pressing sister, Connie Young, is still an actor, and has never mentioned her involvement with this film at auditions. The most beleaguered presence is the mother, Margo Prey, who lives with her own mother in Utah. She respectfully admits an interview, and she even stages a rendition of the riotous “Row row row your boat” scene with George and Michael at her house. But in her description of the film, which she considers a worthy exploration of the strength of family, is inconsistent with the ironic appreciations most everyone else shares. It is admirable that Stephenson leaves this in the film and doesn’t appear to coerce her involvement. Eventually, when Troll 2 is screened in a portable festival in Porterville, Utah (where it was originally shot), Margo declines an invitation to come.

Troll 2’s director, Claudio Fragasso, is apparently the most disenchanted participant. He still believes he’s made a decent horror film, and at one of Troll 2’s many sold-out midnight screenings he marvels at the line outside the theater, dismayed as to why so many people would want to see his film for reasons with which he stalwartly disagrees. (Given the participation of Fragasso and Prey, there is a notable omission in the absence of Deborah Reed, who plays the goblin witch in Troll 2, and delivers what amounts to the film’s single real performance.)

Best Worst Movie could have so easily been a puff piece that summarizes the cult appeal of Troll 2 and reiterates favorite moments. It does both of these things, but its inclusion of dissenting opinions, particularly from those involved in Troll 2’s production, makes it a much more authentic and responsible documenting. At a horror convention in the UK, Troll 2’s panel is a disaster, having drawn only a few attendees. And at more popular conventions in the US, George, Michael, et al, are perpetually overshadowed by more iconic and celebrated personalities who are arguably their peers. But they realize that Troll 2 will never be the most popular cult movie ever (and as of this writing, it’s no longer the worst rated film on the IMDb; it’s not even in the bottom 100), nor is it universally considered all that bad, actually. Films like Best Worst Movie have often determinedly narrow intentions—they fundamentally wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the films they document. But this one has a certain dynamism to it and is at the very least a worthy introduction to the spectacle that is Troll 2.

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