Thursday, November 18, 2010

The power of bad cinema: Best Worst Movie

Troll 2, an Italian produced horror film shot in Utah in 1989, has had a resurrection thanks for the power of the internet and a diverse group of bad cinema fans. A direct-to-video train wreck with stupefying acting, "special" effects and writing, it's not even a sequel to the 1986 American made "Troll". Troll 2 has no trolls, only goblins, but I guess the producers figured a loose link to the original Troll would attract attention.

Best Worst Movie, a very revealing, funny, warm and oddly poignant documentary, was directed and produced by Michael Paul Stephenson, who played the lead role as the young child in Troll 2. The cult rebirth of the movie, which nabbed the top (or bottom top) spot on's worst movies list, has allowed the actors to finally embrace the movie after years of denial, shame or embarrassment of their participation.

The doc centers around Dr. George Hardy, a down to earth dentist in small town Alabama and the nicest man you'll ever meet who for years kept quiet about his principal role as the father in Troll 2. But when his patients looked at him puzzled as if to think, "Was that Dr. Hardy I saw in that horrible movie on HBO?", he had to own up to his role. With the advent of Myspace and Youtube, Troll 2 became a wider cult phenomenon, inspiring special screenings at theatres like the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin and the Nuart in Los Angeles. Extremely enthusiastic fans recite their favorite lines of bad dialogue from the film and some even remake props from the film.

George Hardy clearly is surprised and thrilled by the fanbase Troll 2 has created. Supporting actors from the film also come out of hiding to find out they have fans. The director, Italian anti-auteur Claudio Fraggaso (who used the pseudonym Drake Floyd and is also responsible for such epics like Zombie 4) travels from Italy to LA with his wife who wrote the movie, to witness a long lineup outside a theatre for a screening. "It is very strange." he remarks with a dumbfounded look. He seems conflicted about the so-bad-it's-good response from the audience. He takes the film quite seriously, applying heavy meaning to it's "themes". Even the Italian editor proclaims that Troll 2 inspired Harry Potter!

Most of the great humor in the film comes from scenes in which the director and actors travel to the original locations in Utah to recreate the insane scenes from the film. The director speaks with broken English and with a strong distain for the Americans he has to put up with. At one point he refers to his cast as "dogs" and shows deep jealousy that they are often the center of attention at screenings and Q&As.

One of the more sadder sections in the doc comes when Hardy and Stephenson track down the only cast member who has yet to be found, Margo Prey, who played Hardy's wife. When they knock at her door with apprehension, they discover she is living a shut in life of quiet desperation, taking care of her invalid mother and is the only actor from Troll 2 who truly believes it is a good movie, even boldly comparing it to Casablanca!

Hardy travels to horror conventions with the promise of meeting more hardcore fans but only to find Q&As with depressingly low attendance and sitting at a table with posters to sign and getting virtually no attention.

If Best Worst Movie captures anything perfectly, it's shows the fickle nature of fame, even D or F level fame, and how exhausting and repetitive life in the limelight can be, even for the stars of the worst movie of all time. It also shows how cinema, even terrible cinema, has a bizarre power to bring people together and make them happy. Funny how a bad movie about evil goblins who turn their human victims into mushy green goo has touched the lives of many.

Best Worst Movie is now available on DVD in the U.S. It will be available in Canada on December 7.

Troll 2 is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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