Best Worst Movie
At some point in all of our lives, we will be a failure. Whether because we didn't try our best at something, or we gave it our all and just weren't very good a particular endeavor, the fruit of our labor will come up wanting. Heck, it may even be laughably bad.
Most of the people involved with the 1990 movie "Troll 2" recognize how awful it is, and laugh along with the cult following that has sprung up around it. They're like George Hardy, the star of that film and "Best Worst Movie," a documentary about a flick that has come to be known as the "Citizen Kane" of awful -- the Worst Movie Ever Made.
George lives in Alabama, is a middle-aged dentist, handsome and affable as can be. He was already a dentist when he auditioned for an ultra low-budget horror film to be shot in Utah by some Italian filmmakers. Most of the others in the cast were inexperienced actors, too, and the Italian director spoke little English, so they didn't get much help there. They shot the film in three weeks and more or less forgot about it. When it finally came out on video, Hardy watched it and knew it was awful. What's more, he knew that he was terrible in it. He turned his attention back to cavities, and is better for it.
But like the films of Ed Wood ("Plan 9 from Outer Space"), "Troll 2" slowly gained a following as a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" for a new generation. People would organize midnight screenings and annual parties where they would re-enact painfully bad scenes.
Eventually, Michael Paul Stephenson, who played the little boy who was the main character, had the idea to make a movie about the movie that killed his career as an actor.
Stephenson enlists the aid of Hardy plus several other cast members to attend screenings, where they're greeted like demigods. Eventually the movement gains steam, until they've got almost all of the cast on stage at once, taking questions and doing line readings.
Just how bad is "Troll 2"? Well, start with the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with "Troll," a moderately successful 1986 horror flick. And then there's the fact that the ugly creatures who terrorize a family are called goblins, not trolls. Add in some non-actors, crude special effects and a ridiculous plot about the goblins being vegetarians who want to turn the humans into plants so they can eat them, and you've got all the right ingredients of schlock paradise.
Stephenson rounds up and interviews nearly every principal cast member. Most have resigned themselves to the fact that have helped make an abomination of a movie, and are ready to laugh about it. Others are not, and insist they made a good movie, or at least tried to. A few appear unaware of the difference.
Margo Prey falls into that latter category. She played the mother, and now lives as a shut-in caring for her own elderly mother. She insists that "Troll 2" belongs in the same category as films by Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, and refuses to come to any of the fan screenings.
Then there's Don Packard, who played a scary goblin shop owner, and admits that he had just been released from a mental hospital and was smoking a lot of dope at the time the movie was made. "I wasn't acting," he says.
The film takes on a serious note when dealing with Claudio Fragasso, the director. He is convinced to come join the cast in attending several of the fan shows, but is mortified and insulted to find out that people are laughing at his work. Fragasso is pompous and self-deluded, but still ends up appearing as a sympathetic figure. He's not a very good director, but he believes in himself.
"Best Worst Movie" loses some traction when Hardy and a few others try to take their act on the road to some horror film conventions, and find that hardly anybody knows who they are. The fan base for "Troll 2" is an ardent but definitely underground movement. Perhaps this lively and insightful documentary will change that.