CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
Michael Paul Stephenson
The cast of "Troll 2"
I remember the first time I went to "Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Wow. What a revelation!
It was a film I'd embraced for most of my young adult years, including two years spent performing in the film's weekly live cast as Dr. Scott.
It's just not the same. While "Rocky Horror Picture Show" doesn't quite plummet to the depths of the unimaginably awful "Troll 2," I can't help but reflect on my "Rocky Horror" days with "Troll 2" becoming a cult hit and the subject of one of 2009's best documentaries, "Best Worst movie," seen in companionship with the film upon which it is based as part of the 2009 Indianapolis International Film Festival.
Directed by Michael Paul Stephenson, an original cast member of "Troll 2," "Best Worst Movie" is everything that "Troll 2" is not...a competently made, entertaining, vibrant, beautifully photographed, well edited and utterly fine piece of filmmaking.
If you've never seen Italian director Claudio Fragasso's "Troll 2," it would be almost impossible to describe. The film sits comfortably at #9 on The Independent Critic's list of the "100 Worst Movies of All-Time," and ever so often I find myself looking at the list thinking it should move up into the top 5.
Yes, it really is that awful.
Yet, one of the joys of "Best Worst Movie" is how marvelously it captures the shame that seems to drown original cast members at ever having appeared in the film while Fragasso himself remains convinced to this day that he made a quality film with tremendous insights. Calling Fragasso the Italian Uwe Boll doesn't seem wholly inappropriate.
The actors in the film, many of whom now spend time traveling around the country supporting this documentary and late night screenings of "Troll 2," often seem like a rather stoned-out version of the dysfunctional Partridge Family with the larger than life George Hardy, who appeared at the movie's Indy screening, at the forefront. Hardy, both in the film and in real life, comes off as a genuinely nice guy who's going to milk this mother for all its worth. A real life dentist, it's abundantly clear that Hardy is having the time of his life and, as he says in the film, "You can't piss on hospitality" and it's clear he plans to enjoy this hospitality as long as it lasts.
Other cast members are delightful in their own right, including absurdly off-kilter Don Packard to the rather sad Margo Prey and beyond. Stephenson himself largely stays off camera, though he does make the occasional appearance.
There's something completely joyous about watching a film in which the entire cast has sort of surrendered themselves to the journey...there's hardly an ounce of pretense in the film, except for that of Fragasso and even his is genuinely felt. Rather, while virtually everyone in the film realizes the awful mess that became "Troll 2," they're seemingly overjoyed at having a second chance at the 15 minutes of fame that eluded them the first time around.
Easily one of 2009's best documentaries, "Best Worst Movie" is an honest, entertaining, frequently hilarious and insightful film about one of the worst movies ever made. If you get the chance, you simply must see "Troll 2" immediately after this film.
By Richard Propes
The Independent Critic