A great documentary about a terrible movie

Best Worst Movie looks behind the scenes of the much-scorned Troll 2.

Mediocre films are made all the time but it takes something special to create a truly awful so-bad-it’s-awesome cult classic. Everyone has their favourite but for fans of truly terrible cinema one movie stands apart — Troll 2 (1990). The barely discernable plot involves a young family vacationing in small-town Nilbog U.S.A. (not a real place) where they’re set upon by a gang of malevolent creatures. Or something like that.

“It’s this perfect maelstrom of doomed-to-be-bad brilliance” says Best Worst Movie director Michael Stephenson. “It has terrible direction and terrible acting. The crew was from Italy and they couldn’t speak English. It was set up to be this magical experience but failed miserably.”

Stephenson is something of an expert on the film — it was his first acting gig playing 12-year-old goblin victim Joshua ( Troll 2 is a sequel in name only; it doesn’t have any actual trolls in it). His new documentary Best Worst Movie follows the film’s rise from forgotten trash to cult phenomenon.

“Up until four years ago I didn’t want anything to do with Troll 2 ” he says. “I was trying to forget about it but it wouldn’t go away. It was always on cable late at night and I had this fear that I would always be remembered for it.”

Stephenson later moved from his home in Salt Lake City to Los Angeles where he continued to pursue a career in film. Around that time he began to get posts on his MySpace page from fans asking if he played Joshua in Troll 2 . “I thought ‘What is going on?’” says Stephenson. “Some of these messages came with photos attached groups of kids having Troll 2 parties. People would post lists of their Top-10 favourite movies and in the middle would be Troll 2 . What? Why? I thought ‘This is insane.’ It just didn’t make any sense. One morning I woke up and turned to my wife and said ‘I’m the star of the worst movie ever made.’ It was one of those moments. I said ‘I have to follow this.’”

Around that time some fans arranged a special screening of the film in New York. Stephenson was reluctant to go fearing ridicule and vegetable throwing but he decided to make the trek anyway arriving to find a lineup twisting around the block. When the crowd saw Troll 2 star George Hardy (now working as a dentist in Alabama) everyone went crazy. “[George] was immediately excited — he has become this strange sort of celebrity. That screening was a huge eye-opener. Kids came from all over the country to see it.”

Soon screenings of Troll 2 began to pop up across the country with the film’s “stars” making appearances to sign autographs and answer trivia.

After living with Troll 2 for so long Stephenson has made some peace with the film that once haunted his career. “People enjoy it because it’s a sincere failure” he says. “That’s rare even in films that are successful. I started out hating it. Now I find myself growing closer to it and fonder of it. I can’t say Troll 2 is a bad movie anymore. At least it doesn’t fail to entertain.”

Still others involved with the film remain either traumatized (one actress refuses to list it on her resumé) or woefully misguided (one actor compares it to Casablanca ; director Claudio Fragasso says it’s “a serious parable about vegetarian trolls”).

Considering the film’s newfound success and rumours that Fragasso is creating a sequel ( Troll 2: Part 2 ) would Stephenson reprise his role as Joshua? “Oh man that’s a rough question” he says. “Here’s my answer: You can’t set out to make a Troll 2 . It took many elements intentional and unintentional to make it what it is. But if I could act alongside George Hardy again I couldn’t turn it down. I don’t care if it would be the second worst movie ever made.”