How does one go about making a film with one of the worst reputations of all time? Unintentionally, of course. As has been remarked more than once, including in this documentary, it’s not something you can just set out to do; it won’t turn out the same. But what happens after you’ve made one of the worst films in film history? The 2009 film Best Worst Movie takes a look at these questions with respect to one of the films with such a staggeringly bad reputation, Troll 2.
The film, released direct-to-video after a few festival appearances, was directed by Michael Stephenson. Stephenson played the main character in the film, Joshua, when he was a young boy. As he says in the documentary, he dreamed of being a child actor… and when he finally got to see the film upon its eventual VHS release, he watched his dreams go up in flames.
When a preteen boy says a film he starred in sucks, it really sucks.
In Best Worst Movie, Stephenson not only chronicles the cult following the movie has accumulated due to its bad-good reputation, he also takes a look back at how the film was made. This includes interviews with the other cast members and crew. Watching the documentary makes it very difficult to say bad things about the acting in the film, because it is clear how hard the actors were trying. Most of them came to the casting call expecting to be cast as extras, and were surprised when they were given leading roles. They thought the film was going to launch their movie careers. And then it promptly killed them. Most of them never had any film credits afterward, though a few have endeavored to act again, primarily the younger actors who had the time to distance themselves from it before resuming acting as adults. Connie Young — who played the daughter in the film under the name Connie McFarland — states outright that she doesn’t list Troll 2 on her acting resume, and hopes that when she auditions for films the casting director doesn’t find out (wise decision).
In a few cases it can be rather sad to look at the lives of the actors. Margo Prey, who played the mother, seems to have isolated herself off, though she claims she wishes to return to acting once she is done caring for her mother. Don Packard, who played the goblin general store owner, states that at the time the film was made, he was mentally ill (he is currently on medication), and when he played the part he was on day leave from the local mental hospital. He says that when he looks back at the film now, he realizes he was as disturbed as his character.
The most convincing actor in the film says he wasn’t acting.
Some of the stories are more positive, however. A few, as noted, have patched together small acting careers by judiciously ignoring their part in the “Best Worst Movie”. And others have moved on with their lives, making careers in other fields. George Hardy is particularly notable, and is the focus of most of the film. A dentist by trade, he played the father in the film, and has arguably embraced the film’s dubious legacy more than any of the others, accepting invitations to film festivals screening the legendary turkey. He is aware of how bad the film is, and seems to get as much enjoyment out of poking fun at it as the fans do. Hardy seems a lot like the class clown grown into an adult; even when he’s just being himself, he has a sense of fun about life and is entertaining to watch.
Entertaining to watch for entirely different reasons is director Claudio Fragasso. Fragasso seems to be in steadfast denial of the film’s reception. To give him credit, it may be play-acting, but if so, it’s a persistent act. When the actors mock themselves and the film in panel, he calls them liars and dogs for not appreciating the film. He notes that the audience laughs at both the parts that are intended to be funny and the parts that aren’t intended to be funny, but doesn’t appear to understand that this is because of the flaws of the film, not flaws in the audience. He almost seems to get it when he says that the film being dubbed the worst film ever is almost as good as being called the best film ever, but even after witnessing audience reactions at several screenings, he is insistent that Troll 2 is a work of genius.
That’s one man’s opinion. Precisely one man’s.
We hear about terrible films all the time. Every once in a while we hear about a film that is beyond terrible, one that is legendary in how awful it is. Very rarely, however, do we get a look into how that film came about or what the aftermath of it was. Best Worst Movie provides that look, and it’s both insightful and fun in its approach. Even people who haven’t witnessed Troll 2 for themselves might find it worth watching, simply for the perspective it grants on other ill-reputed films; by spotlighting Troll 2, it helps to answer the more general questions of how such films come about and impact their casts. And, of course, for those who have subjected themselves to Troll 2, the documentary is a must-see.
P.S.: This review is part of a Troll 2 double-review. To read the review of the film itself, follow this link.