Jul 22 2009

Troll 2

Film Duel is our written review format in which Benn and James each review a film, and then comment on each other’s reviews to give a proper balance and really fill out the commentary as well as possible. This week we take on the abomination that is the legen — wait for it- DAIRY film that goes by the name of Troll 2.

Troll 2
Year: 1990
Dir.: Claudio Fragasso
Written by: Rossella Drudi and Claudio Fragasso
Starring: Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey
Genre: Horror

Benn and James’ reviews and rebuttals follow after the jump.

James says:

The proper way to phrase it is, “I survived Troll 2”. Making it through this movie is quite an achievement in itself, for of all the films I’ve seen in my lifetime (which I promise you is quite a lot), this definitely ranks among the worst. In fact, it may just take the heavyweight title. This is a movie so bad that it spawned a documentary about its cult following aptly titled Best Worst Movie. Don’t be surprised if I see and review this film sometime in the future. You see, Troll 2 is that special kind of bad movie that transcends it’s lack of quality in every respect to come out the other side as something completely entertaining and enjoyable in its own right. There’s nothing quite like the hilarity that certain scenes of this film provide, and they really must be seen to be believed. Nonetheless, I will try my best to give you some idea of what this film is really like, and whether or not you should brave its perils.

It’s not that there isn’t a first Troll film, there is. We did not watch it before seeing this film, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have made a difference if we did. It’s very likely that this film has nothing to do with its predecessor. In fact even the word troll seems to be kind of a misnomer here. It’s incredible that this film manages to mess up even its title. The word troll is never used within the film as far as I can remember, it uses goblins instead. This may seem like a nitpick except the fact that it’s such a repeated focus of the film, even the town they visit is named Nilbog (Goblin in reverse). Also the fact that Troll is singular whereas this is about a great many goblins makes it also oddly awkward.

But enough about the name of the film, we wouldn’t want to judge a book by its cover, now would we? The plot is delivered in a very confusing manner. The film drops you into what feels like mid-sentence of a story about a guy we never really get to know eating too much of the goblin’s food and for some reason bleeding green liquid from his forehead. We then see that this is a story being told to our hero, a young kid named Joshua by his grandfather. We then learn that his grandfather is dead, and he’s been seeing him anyways. His family thinks that going on a trip will help him become more grounded in reality, so they decide to swap houses with a family in the aforementioned Nilbog town. Once they get there Joshua realizes that the goblins inhabit this town and that they are trying to get them to eat their food. Joshua must convince his family not to eat any food, that goblins exist, that his grandfather’s apparition is real, and somehow escape or defeat the goblins. And that’s pretty much it, but after watching the movie, you’d think there’s much more, because they throw in so many confusing elements. There’s witches, people that get turned into plants, and an obscene obsession with getting people to eat food. Often this food looks like disgusting green sludge but the characters never seem to notice.

It’s hard to pick a worst aspect about this movie, but I’m going to go with the acting. This acting is so horrendous there really aren’t words to describe it. The mother in the film is full of odd expressions that make no sense. The father delivers lines in the wackiest way imaginable, his dialogue is chock full of hilarity just because of the seriousness with which he tries and fails to deliver these lines with emotion. The child is your standard poor child actor, and his performance is almost harmless with comparison to the other people in the film. I could go on and list more poor performances, but what would be the point really? Unlike the B-movies that will be the subject of our third podcast, there doesn’t seem to be any sense of awareness about the bad quality of the acting. It’s simply bad and unbelievable and a little insane. I don’t know if the language barrier between the director and the actors caused this to happen, but it’s there, and it’s hilarious.

In the actors’ defense, the dialogue is just consistently ridiculous. You’d have to hear it in context, but often times it doesn’t even make any logical sense as part of the conversation. The script itself is horrendous in general as well. To try and analyze it to any extent is futile. It’s basically trying to be a cool horror film but fails miserably at every turn. It’s got ridiculous characters and ridiculous situations. You may notice a common use of the word ridiculous in this review, and if you saw the film, you’d find it rightly used repetitively. At times it tries to be sexy, it tries to be scary, and it always fails. Interestingly, it never tries to be funny, but it pretty much always is.

The cinematography is impossible to really criticize. It’s a low budget film and it looks like crap. But in some ways, if you look at what they had to work with, that is not the worst aspect of this film. It looks like a 90s film certainly, with bad hair and costuming. There are some effects that are really cheesy, and a few others that aren’t bad for the budget they had to work with. But a lot of the effects definitely contribute to the comedy of the film.

There are some scenes that will be forever etched into my memory after watching this film. This film really should be watched if for nothing other than these scenes. Foremost of these is a scene that I will try not to ruin, but just say it involves a “sexy” witch and a husk of corn. The scene has possibly the worst logical I’ve ever seen on screen, and a set of lines of dialogue that, while said to the corresponding character, don’t actually seem to be a proper answer to what the other person was asking. It’s one of the funniest bad scenes I’ve ever seen. Other highlights include a scene in which the human formed goblins try and get a kid to drink a bunch of milk while he’s running from place to place. “Milk was a bad choice,” anyone? Another scene in which the father punishes his son is particularly gleefully maladroit, and a classic scene for the actor playing the father. If you read this review and decide this film is not for you, please at least seek out these scenes on YouTube so that you get a taste of what this movie is like. There’s truly nothing like it.

To properly criticize this film is really like being a bully taking cheap shots at a schoolyard child. Or maybe it’s like a professional wrestler taking cheap shots at a school yard child. Needless to say this is a horrendously made film. But that’s what makes it so spectacular. If you enjoy watching bad movies for their unintentional comedic value, or like Mystery Science Theater 3000 at all (this is not one of the films they did, but it’s enjoyable for the same reasons), you will have a fantastic time watching this movie. Don’t watch it alone. Pick a night when you’ve got a bunch of friends over (alcohol doesn’t hurt), and really tear this thing a part. I’m telling you, despite the piss-poor quality film making, you will not regret spending a little time with this movie.

Benn says:

There is a lot that goes into making a movie. A script has to be written, revised and approved, actors have to be cast, locations must be scouted, lights, cameras, cables and set design has to be set up, etc, etc, etc… With this in mind, there is only question that comes to mind: How the hell was Troll 2 ever made in the first place?

Troll 2 follows the Waits family on a much-needed vacation after the death of Grandpa Seth in the small, nearly desolate town of Nilbog. Little Joshua Wait, however, continues to see his grandfather, who warns him too stay far away from the town of Nilbog, as the town is full of goblins that turn people into vegetables in order to eat them. Yes, you have read this correctly: goblins, not trolls, mean to turn people into giant cabbage patches for food.

Aside from the brazenly obvious fact that the word “troll” is not even mentioned during Troll 2, the film is full of so many absurd concepts, scenes and lines of dialogue that is difficult to know where to begin. For one, the ethereal warnings of Grandpa Seth are, for some reason, only limited to Joshua, though it is never explained why. Since Seth is later seen accidentally haunting the wrong grandchild in the wrong room, then speaking to the whole family near the end of the film, it can only be speculated that Joshua was his favorite. Still, why a ghost would depend on a ten-year-old boy to protect his family is beyond me.

The goblins themselves are, by far, the most unthreatening monsters in film history; it makes the Mogwai of Gremlins fame look like the creatures from Aliens. Although the goblins often take the form of hicks when in human company, the creatures themselves have immovable faces made out of rubber that look like cheap Halloween masks. They are also about three feet tall, so how or why the goblins function as a threat to the Waits family is too absurd to take seriously; anyone with a decent pair of running shoes and a hockey stick could easily survive a weekend in pursuit of these vegetarian predators.

And how does a goblin turn a human into a vegetarian product? Why, by force-feeding them green slop not so subtly mixed in with food. When trying to convince the Waits family, and other characters, to eat up, the disguised goblins are apparently going for an eerie, all encompassing kind of inescapable horror, not unlike the off-putting initiation ceremony in Freaks. Unfortunately, these scenes are less freaky and more giggle inducing and, as such, cannot be taken seriously.

Of course, most of the film’s humor comes from a sub plot featuring good old fashion horny teenage boys; the staple of any self-respecting horror film. In order to prove to girlfriend Holly Waits that he can be a devoted boyfriend and abandon his friends (this logic escapes me), teenager Elliot follows the Waits clan in a camper with his friends in tow. After a long night of dreaming of sexed-up farm girls and sleeping in the same bed (don’t even get me started), the boys are one by one turned into walking beanstalks until Elliot has no friends to go to, making him entirely dependant to Holly by default. In the most memorable scene of the film, one of the boys is seduced by the troll -excuse me– goblin matriarch and sorceress with corn on the cob. Although it does not go the pornographic route one would expect, the concept and execution of this idea reaches a new height, or low depending on one’s perspective, in camp.

There are plenty of god-awful films out there, like Troll 2, that have poor dialogue, acting and writing, all coming together to make one cinematic pile of crap. Somehow, Troll 2 managed to become one of the most entertaining, most funny cult films I’ve seen in spite of how bad it is. Every bad line of dialogue, piece of wooden acting and unconvincing special effect will make people laugh. Like Manos: The Hands of Fate and Killer Klowns from Outer Space before it, Troll 2’s lack of quality to too outrageous to be taken seriously and most viewers are bound to list it as one of their favorite comedies.

Ben’s rebuttal:

Once more, James hit the nail on the head; this film is one of, if not the worst film. Yet for some reason, Troll 2 is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in quite some time in spite of itself. There are intentionally-comedic films out there that prove to be not as funny as Troll 2. This film is, no doubt, cinema’s greatest accident.

James’ rebuttal:

Does Troll 2 really deserve any sort of rebuttal?  I’m just going to keep simple and go with “I owned you in review length on this one, Benn.”

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