Manos The Hands of Fate, The Room and Plan 9 From Outer Space. What do all of these titles have in common? They are easily considered some of the worst films ever made. But it is argued by most that one film holds the distinction of worst movie of all time. That film is Troll 2. Made in 1990, Troll 2 follows the Waits family as they travel to Nilbog (its Goblin spelled backwards!) and the wackiness that ensues. Although the cast and most of the crew have avoided this movie like the plague over the past 20 years, a rabid fan following has emerged. This caused the films star-turned-filmmaker Michael Stephenson to examine the films surprising popularity as well as track down and reunite the cast of the much maligned film. 4 years later the world was blessed with Best Worst Movie.
The documentary’s central “character” is Dr. George Hardy (a.k.a. Troll 2’s Michael Waits) who, since his big screen debut, has established himself as Alexader City, Alabama’s premiere dentist and nicest guy on earth. Early on in the film Hardy learns of the fan following that Troll 2 has obtained and he is immediately taken with it. He and Stephenson (with the help of some familiar faces including Jason Steadman who played Troll 2’s Drew) attend screenings of their dirty little secret all over the country and are welcomed with fanfare and delight. But it is here where the film takes a surprising turn.
Stephenson begins to catch up with the long forgotten supporting cast and crew of the film including the Nilbog store owner Don Packard, his on screen mother Margo Prey and the films Italian director Claudio Fragasso. In these absolutely pure slices of humanity, Stephenson takes a big step back from the fandom and examines exactly what each one of his co-stars and much of the crew went through during the filming and what they have experienced since, which more often than not yields not only unbelievable but also heartbreaking results. Perhaps the most surreal moments of the film are those in which we hear Troll 2 compared to the Harry Potter mythos and classic Bogart pictures like Casablanca.
The film is able to accomplish something magical. What on the surface may appear to be a mere retrospective becomes an incredibly human look at the people who believed they were making a good movie. At no point is their any mistake about this. After witnessing the joy and sometimes failure of the films cast and crew and seeing how Troll 2 has affected so many lives all over the globe it happens…you realize that Troll 2 is not what you thought it was. You realize Troll 2 is not the worst movie ever made and it may in fact be very far from it. As the film closes where it began, with George Hardy in his kitchen, you can’t help but want to experience Troll 2 all over again, with a brand new perspective into the (green) blood, sweat and tears that went into making the film.
The DVD includes some really great excised bits from the film. There are great extended interviews with Don Packard and Claudio Fragasso as well as two really hilarious shorts with George Hardy including a bit where he repairs the tooth of the films Goblin Queen, Deborah Reed, in his original Utah practice (where he has commandeered a dental suite) and a special “silence your cell phone message” that revisits the class “hospitality” speech. There is also a fantastic (audio only) recording of the creative screenwriting podcast where Jeff Goldsmith interviews Hardy and Stephenson. Nearly matching the runtime of Best Worst Movie, it is the closest thing to a directors commentary which is, sadly, the only thing that this DVD lacks.
Best Worst Movie is that rare treat you only get a few times in your life. It is a film that opens your eyes in a whole new way and makes you appreciate the people and process of making a film…no matter what the outcome. Buy. This. Film. By doing so you prove that independent film is alive and well and that films of this caliber can make it no matter what. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Oh and p.s. be on the lookout for Best Worst Movie 2: Return to The Room…nah just kidding. But be on the lookout for my interview with Best Worst Movie director Michael Stephenson coming in the next few days!