Double Review: Troll

So, with Dreamworks’ Trolls coming out this week, and in the spirit of October, I figured I would watch these famous films also called Troll.

I mean… Trolls is a sequel to these right? Like Aliens is to Alien? Right? Right?

Nah, I am just trolling.

troll
Troll (1986)

The infamous eighties fantasy film, perhaps benefited from incredibly low expectations. It is still ridiculous though.

When a family move into a new apartment, their young daughter disappears and is replaced by a troll disguised as her. The family, along with a witch who also lives in the apartment block, find themselves in trouble as the troll starts to take over the building by transforming the tenants.

Troll lives in infamy, but perhaps not as much as its sequel (of questionable origin) as one of the worst films from the 1980s, so going into this I was all set for The Room levels of quality. While extremely dated and extremely silly at times… it wasn’t that bad.

To say what it good about it, the troll design was actually not bad; many of the effects are standard of the time and could be excused as such. They aren’t great, some of the smaller creatures are just goofy rubber hand puppets, but they have practicality about them that makes them somewhat endearing. When people start grossly transforming, and the building starts to turn into a jungle, yeah, it is silly and transparent in its implementation… but it is fun to watch.
On top of this, the tone of the movie. Wow. This film is ridiculous, something like a prototype Leprechaun, this film is aware of its own craziness. From the moment we see the Troll, without any tension or build up and within the first ten minutes, to meeting the family’s eccentric neighbours (over-acting ahoy!) you know this film is off its head. When everyone in the building has been turned into trolls inside their apartments, and the witch is just wandering up and down the stairs discovering this like it was another day at the office. Or how she has a pet talking mushroom, that she hides under a lamp shade. Cheesy nonsense.

It is surprisingly entertaining, and surprisingly kept me watching. Even though the acting is often terrible, the pacing is all over the place and some scenes are just down right bewildering. The family’s son (who first works out what has happened to his younger sister) needs a conveniently timed television show to tell him twice about “pod-people” before he got the hint.
The daughter Wendy, for a child actress, was good too. She’s given the task of acting like she’s possessed by a troll, and… she sure puts a lot of effort in!

What is also unintentionally hilarious about watching this now… the father’s name is Harry Potter, and the son’s name is Harry Potter Jr. No joke.

It isn’t a good movie though, don’t misunderstand. This is one of those hokey, silly 1980s movies that has charm and nonsense in equal measure. It isn’t scary, unless you are five, because it has dated so poorly. But it has a entertaining stupidity.

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troll2
Troll 2 (1990)

Often considered one of the worst, if not the worst, films ever made… Troll 2 doesn’t disappoint.

Wow, just…

A family go on vacation to a town called “Nilbog” only for their son to discover the citizens are all goblins in disguise, led by an evil queen, intent on eating them.

This film is so terrible it becomes an experience. Similar to The Room, logic and reason become concepts too brittle to cope with what the audience is seeing, and you either turn it off (wisely) or let it wash over you like a torrent of ridiculous awfulness. Troll 2 has actually gained similar cult status due to its misguided direction and for a time had a score of 0% on RottenTomatoes.

The film has one special scene that most people today are aware of; a boy looking upwards and saying: “They are eating her, and then they are going to eat me. Oh my god!” as the camera zoomed in on his mouth. This twenty-two second clip on Youtube as nearly 6 million views at the time this review was written.
Truly Troll 2, regardless of the terrible monsters that are literally just Halloween masks, is a example of acting and script writing suicide. Apparently, the major acting roles for the film were filled by people who had originally auditioned as extras. Director Claudio Fragasso and his wife, who only spoke Italian, wrote the script in English and apparently denied the English speaking cast the chance to improve the poor translation. The cast even auditioned to Italian crew who did not know English.

Really, you get a good idea of what the acting, and script writing is like just from reading about the film’s production! It is actually hard to believe the actors were determined enough to read the lines. There’s nothing quite like giving at least one example, from within the first ten minutes:

Dude, after being hit in the groin: “You nuts, you trying to turn me into a homo?”

After that its just one long surreal experience. Characters are turned into trees, potted, and dragged about the room, we have some sort of spiritual guide Grandpa character who furnishes a ten year old with a Molotov cocktail. We have a goblin queen seducing a guy with a corn on the cob… before showering them both in popcorn (and apparently leaving him unhurt in a mound of popcorn) don’t believe me?

Her: “What’s the matter? Aren’t you hungry?”
Him: “Well, I like popcorn…”
Her: “We’ll just have to… heat it up!”

So why does any of this happen? Seemingly the town of Nilbog is inhabited by goblins (not trolls) and they only eat vegetables, and have some sort of green goop that if a human eats it they turn into green goop themselves, which the goblins eat. Or… they turn into trees. Not sure what the distinction is.
So most of this film is this family bumbling around town oblivious as another group of young guys are being picked off one by one, while the son continuously shrieks about seeing his dead grandpa.
This had to be a comedy from the start, it must have been intentional! So much of this is laugh out loud atrocious that surely no one could have meant for anything else. Production design is that of a dated 1980s low-budget television show (oh god, the music, the music is like an 1980s gameshow at times) The acting is so robotic, so wooden, which only intensifies how terrible the script really is.

“But how are we going to make grandpa come?”

This is a film to watch with friends at a party. It is up there with The Room as “so bad it is good”, a transcendent level of bad. But personally, I probably shouldn’t have wasted my time.

0.5

Additional Marshmallows: Troll 2 was originally called Goblins, but the distributors (wisely) didn’t think the film would survive as a stand-alone film, and renamed it as a sequel to the 1986 movie.

Additional, additional Marshmallows: Goblin 2 is due to release next year, 2017, as a “sequel” to Troll 2

Even more Marshmallows: A docu-drama, Best Worst Movie, was made in 2009 to cover the haphazard production of Troll 2.

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