What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

The fact that it has nothing to do with the first Troll or the troll monster is the just the tip of the iceberg. George Hardy and Michael Stephenson star in Troll 2.

Troll 2Cast of Characters:
Michael Waits – George Hardy
Joshua Waits – Michael Stephenson
Diana Waits – Margo Prey
Holly Waits – Connie McFarland
Grandpa Seth – Robert Ormsby

Director – Claudio Fragrasso
Screenplay – Claudio Fragrasso & Rossella Drudi
Producer – Brenda Norris, Joe D’Amato & Asher Zulkosky Larson
Rated PG-13

For one summer vacation, the Waits family – led by Michael (George Hardy) and Diana (Margo Prey) – decide to vacation in the town of Nilbog, a remote farming community. There, they will house-swap with one of the local families. Of course, their kids are against the idea, but for different reasons. Holly (Connie McFarland) is the typical bratty teenager that gags at the thought of living in the country, and Joshua (Michael Stephenson) fears for his family’s safety after being contacted by the ghost of his dead grandpa Seth (Robert Ormsby), who warns him of the goblins that inhabit the town.

Once they’re settled into their new abode filled with “hospitality”, Joshua begins to witness strange things around the town. His family thinks he’s just being a kid with an overactive imagination, but when visitors begin to act strange after eating a bizarre green-like substance, Joshua’s concerns may have more validity than what his family initially thought.

Many people consider Troll 2 to be the best-worst film ever made. In fact, almost 20 years after this film, Michael Stephenson made a critically acclaimed documentary titled Best Worst Movie, which reunited him with his former co-stars as they recalled their experiences working on the film and the cult fanbase that developed following the movie’s release. It’s actually a great documentary if you haven’t seen it. Would I myself claim Troll 2 to be the best of the worst? No, I will forever bestow that honor to The Room ’til the day I die.

Let me clarify, though. This film is laughably horrible in every aspect. There’s even an argument to be made that the acting here is worse than what you see in The Room (still not much of a compliment for the latter film). That said, if there’s any bragging rights Troll 2 has over The Room, it’s that if you’re looking at both DVD cases, you expect a certain level of ridiculousness from this film, whereas The Room comes off as a dopey Lifetime movie.

Like the aforementioned The Room, Troll 2 certainly is filled to the brim with moments bound to leave question marks dancing around your head while you puzzlingly scratch a hole through your brain. Why, after being chased by goblins and then being confronted by a creepy woman who hands them “broth”, would the two victims look at each other like, “Hmm… Seems legit.” and then proceed to drink? Apparently, house swapping is that easy. When Grandpa Seth (Rent-a-Orson Welles) shows up in Holly’s room instead of Joshua’s, he explains to Joshua that he hasn’t had time to go over the home’s layout. Since when do ghosts need to know layouts? How come it never enters anyone’s minds just how obsessed with eating the locals are? What Spencer’s mall shop did they get the cheesy goblin outfits? Are the Waits really that shocked that Nilbog is just goblin spelled backwards?

Still, though, it’s missing its own “Oh, I have cancer.” moment. Closest we get is the heartwrenching account of Michael’s childhood hunger suffering, although it really does give him a leg up on his son.

So, how does a film like this – one that involves a kid defeating goblins by way of a double-decker bologna sandwich – get made?

The script was initially titled Goblins and was inspired by co-writer/director Claudio Fragrasso’s wife Rossella Drudi’s frustration with several of her friends becoming vegetarians. Why the name change? Well U.S. distributors were “skeptical” (yeah, sure) that this film couldn’t succeed as a standalone film, so they changed it to Troll 2 in an attempt to market it as a sequel to 1986’s Troll. This, despite having no connection to Troll and the fact that the monsters were, of course, goblins and not trolls.

What’s the difference between a goblin and a troll? I could care less.

I’ve joked on here and my blogger page before about unorthodox (for lack of a better word) casting means, but that actually happened here. They basically rolled out an open casting call and cast a number of the local residents. George Hardy (or as I like to call him, late 80’s/early 90’s semi-mullet Aaron Eckhart), a dentist with no acting experience whatsoever, showed up to the audition just for fun, hoping to be castas an extra – yes, I said as an extra.

He was given one of the lead roles.

One of the oddest casting choices was Don Packard as the local store owner. Packard, at the time they were filming, was still a resident of the local mental hospital and was cast immediately after he was released. He later admitted to smoking an enormous amount of pot while filming and not recalling what was going on around him as well as not acting his part. He does give the most authentic performance in the movie.

How does someone like that get cast? “Oh, so you’re fresh out of the nuthouse? Okay, sure, why not?” Come to think of it, how did anyone in this film get cast? Was Helen Keller the casting director, ’cause I have a feeling whoever was neither saw or heard anyone’s audition.

The biggest head scratching decision by Fragrasso, though, was bringing on a mostly non-English speaking film crew (neither Fragrasso nor his wife could speak English either) to deal with an American cast. The script was given to the cast scene-by-scene (similar to Wiseau with The Room, but he was more paranoid about them stealing his script) and was written in a broken pidgin dialect they could hardly understand. Many of the cast members tried to offer better line suggestions to Fragrasso, but he was adamant they recite the lines as they were.

Holy mother of God, does it ever show here.

The worst offender of them all (well, other than everyone) is Deborah Reed as the witch Creedence Leonore Gielgud. She’s getting a special mention from me (Margo Prey’s performance and her “perpetually witnessing the apocalypse unfold” stare comes a close second)  ’cause this woman overacts to such an extent, I couldn’t tell if she was the only one in on the joke and decided to just go with it, or if she’s just that bad at acting. Ah – who are we kidding? It’s the latter. I’m convinced she was enthusiastically accepted by the rest of the cast ’cause her performance is on a level that makes everyone else look like Juilliard thespians. She actually somehow makes it possible to enunciate within her enunciating. It’s like every word she utters causes her eyes to bug out like she’s having a massive facial twitch Tourette’s attack. Me just talking about her performance doesn’t do it any justice. It has to be seen.

I do commend the cast, most of which have embraced this film’s status as being one of the best of the worst. Unlike Claudio Fragrasso, who seems like a bit of an asshole in interviews, the cast are great sports about the film. Can’t say I don’t respect that. Fact is, when it was made, many of them were just unknowns wanting an opportunity to do a movie. If not for those troopers, I would be deprived of the hundreds of unintentional laughs I got from this film.

This is the type of film that, when you pick up the DVD case in the “Just take it!” section at your nearest rental store, you look it over and expect it to be ridiculous. Then you watch it and your expectations are exceeded by miles – no, light years – no, infinity. This film cements itself as one of the best-worst just in Joshua’s decision to get his family to stop eating poisoned food by pissing all over it alone. In hindsight, that might’ve worked for me too when I was a kid back in Florida being “forced” to eat pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Plus, how often are you gonna get to see corn on the cob being popped into popcorn during a sex scene?

I know. Tarantino who?

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