Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Best Worst Movie

I’m going to paraphrase The Big Lebowski in commenting, “sometimes there is a movie, sometimes, there is a movie.” That simplifies what Best Worst Movie does by looking at the phenomenon that is Troll 2. IMDb listed it at one point as the worst film of all time. It still has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. When it was released it had no publicity, but over time a cult movement has really taken hold of this movie.

Michael Stephenson played the little boy in Troll 2 who has to try to convince his family to leave the town before the goblins turn them into plants. He was so excited to star in a major film, but when he finally saw the finished version, he was horrified. For years it had been an embarrassment, but as fans started growing for appreciation for Troll 2 he decided to make this film. He made a terrible film and now he wants to make a good one. Congratulations Michael, you achieved equilibrium.

The main focus of Best Worst Movie is the dynamic George Hardy. He is a full time dentist who starred in Troll 2, almost as a lark. He’s always enjoyed acting even though he’s not the best at it. For years he always shrugged off his patients saying that he was in that random horror film, but once the movie blew up he jumped into the limelight.

People have been having personal Troll 2 parties for years. People bring their friends and they treat it like Rocky Horror Picture Show. They repeat lines, laugh hysterically and just watch in horror at a film that fails on every level. The Upright Citizen Brigade is a improv comedy theatre in New York that wanted to screen Troll 2 and they had a sold out show. Several members of the cast, including Hardy and Stephenson, were guests of honors. This started similar showings all around the country.

What makes Troll 2 such a hit with people is that there is actual love for it. Comedian Patton Oswalt calls it “tragically beautiful.” People have a great time watching it because of how it was made. The insane director, Claudio Fragasso, never thought he was making a bad film. In fact he still thinks it’s very good and the rest of the world just doesn’t understand it. This bubble means there is no winking at the camera in Troll 2 or any cynicism. It’s just genuinely…bad.

Fragasso and his wife/screenwriter provide a lot of the laughs in this movie. When confronted about the concept of there being no trolls in Troll 2, he simply says, “You just don’t understand.” He is constantly yelling at the actors and calling them dogs, even today! So much of the movie is funny because enough time has passed since Troll 2 was made everyone can joke about it. (Except Fragasso)

What surprised me is when the film wasn’t funny. Revisiting some of the cast led to some rather poignant moments. Margo Prey, who played the mom, has isolated herself from the world in order to care for her sick mother. She looks likes she has had several rounds of plastic surgery and reminded me a lot of the women from Gray Gardens, but with possible mental problems.

It was the scenes like that made this a really great documentary. It works as a movie about films and the power and community of it, but it is also a very nice examination into some of the key players. Hardy is quite a character and even though they spend too much time on him with the beginning, he is vibrant enough to carry this film.

I was lucky enough to see this movie at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. Hardy was present along with one of the film’s producers. I’m happy to report the film perfectly captured Hardy’s enthusiastic persona. After a Q&A, they showed Troll 2. I hadn’t seen it before that night and…wow. The film only teases of how bad and bizarre it really is. I encourage everyone to see that with a group of friends.

Best Worst Movie is traveling the country now in limited release. It should be on DVD this November.

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