Lock the doors and pull out the weed-wacker for this house party of horror! One family is about to find out there's no place like home when a troublesome troll starts taking over their building, transforming each apartment into an overgrown garden of ancient evil and turning tenants into a horde of hairy hobgoblins! Michael Moriarty and Julia Louis-Dreyfus star in this super-slimy scare-fest.
Those greedy goblins are back and hungrier than ever in this gourmet gross-out! Disguised as friendly country folk, a pugnacious posse of people-eating trolls lures visitors to their town. But a family of four is about to discover this place is a real tourist trap... and now, the no-good gnomes must be destroyed before the family gets flambéed... and the world becomes a buffet in this feeding frenzy of fear!
Ignoring the fact that 'Troll' is just shy of its 30th anniversary, which only serves to remind me of my age, it's amusing to think back on my initial experience with this low-budget movie, which became a minor box-office hit that year. As a curious adolescent boy roaming the aisles of my local video store, the VHS cover art, which featured the titular creature immersed in heavy shadows with a glowing stare and a malevolent grin while holding a colorful ball, was just creepy enough to have my imagination rolling with its scary potential. But as anyone who grew up in the video rental era knows, the artwork was brilliantly deceptive because more often than not, the movies were not nearly as good as advertised. In this instance, I pictured the troll, whose name is later revealed as Torok, going on some gruesome killing spree where he would butcher the residents of the San Francisco apartment complex in which the plot is set. Sadly, we don't get any of that, except for some fairly mild gore.
Instead, the John Carl Buechler-directed feature, from a script by Ed Naha ('Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,' 'Dolls'), follows Torok (the awesome Phil Fondacaro) as he transforms each apartment into humid, flourishing forests and the tenants into hideous mythical creatures. And the little bugger does this by pricking his victims with a needle from his gigantic emerald ring while disguised as innocent-looking and the complex's newest resident Wendy, played by a very talented Jenny Beck. About the scariest thing in all this is the ring, Fondacaro and Beck doing their attempt at seeming evil and watching Sonny Bono's groovy bachelor metamorphose into a giant pod. Oh, and there's also the mini monsters that hilariously look like 'Ghoulies' rejects or long-lost cousins, but they don't really do much except growl and snarl while apparently capable of harmoniously singing some Medieval hymn. Again, it's not the least bit scary but curiously entertaining enough to be weirdly watchable.
Then, there's the added benefit of revisiting the 80s cult favorite after three decades and seeing things one was not really aware of at the time. For one, Torok's background story, as told by the eccentric Eunice St. Clair (June Lockhart of 'Lost in Space' TV fame), is downright silly, littered with several small plot holes. For a PG-13 dark fantasy flick such as this, Julia Louis-Dreyfus's nymph dance is pretty darn sexy and suggestive. Then, there are the many leafy plants that look suspiciously similar to a certain, ahem, cannabis plant, and several awkward but funny moments commenting on Fondacaro's stature when in the role of Malcolm Malory. The funniest bit of all is Michael Moriarty and Noah Hathaway playing father and son, Harry Potter. That's right! If you've ever wondered what happened little Harry after graduating Hogwarts, then wonder no longer because he's trapped in suburbia, caught in the middle of a magical war between trolls and witches. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
There are at least a dozen or more other movies I would rank worse than this low-budget debacle. That's not to say 'Troll 2' isn't bad, because it really is a wretched pile of awfulness. Thing is, there are shoddier messes available, yet this one is strangely enduring and etches itself into the memory of viewers. Basically, the movie is surprisingly entertaining and unintentionally hilarious, which is the secret to its strong following. As far as the filmmakers were concerned, they were making a serious horror feature... but with goblins. This is part of what makes it so funny. This fiasco doesn't come with a single troll. Not one. And it actually bears no relation whatsoever to Buechler's original 1986 movie. The title is purely a marketing ploy — and one of the worst ever since there is no connection to the first.
The other part making this such a riot is the maladroit acting, the dreadful dialogue, and the utter lack of narrative logic, an essential element to a coherent script. Claudio Fragasso, credited as Drake Floyd, not only directed 'Troll 2' but also wrote it with his wife, Rossella Drudi. And well, their English isn't so good. A translator was needed so that an Italian crew could work with an inexperienced American cast. And well, that person wasn't so good either. The results are an unwitting side-splitter that has to be seen to be believed. How could anyone think they were involved in a scary movie!?! But that's exactly where the humor is — the sheer sincerity and seriousness of it all. The cast really thought it was a major Hollywood production — their big break! — and filmmakers believed their movie would scare and shock audiences everywhere.
When broken down into plot devices, inappropriate musical cues and editing, things grow worse, and we think this has to be some kind of joke. There are several baffling scenes that go unexplained or are simply forgotten as the movie progresses, like the popcorn scene. Why Brent (David McConnell) would think popcorn when seeing a corncob, we'll never know. And we'll never find out what happened to him afterwards. Or how about when Holly (Connie McFarland) recites what she'll say to her boyfriend, Elliot (Jason Wright). "It's me or the boys, Elliot." And the next morning, we see him lying in bed half-naked with his boys. What's with the spoiled milk? Why does grandpa only talk to Joshua? And for the love of all that is holy, would someone please ask what the green stuff is before eating it?
Filmed in Utah, it almost seems as if the Italian exploitation filmmaker, best known for his work with Bruno Mattei, hired a local repertory company, most of which had never been in a film. Their acting skills, from timing to staging, are obviously meant for the theater not the screen. McFarland is probably the biggest offender by conveniently positioning herself so that the camera is always in front of her and literally trying to perform as if in a playhouse. George Hardy, as the father, fails to deliver his silly lines with weight, and I kept waiting for the moment when Margo Prey, the mother, would stop looking surprised and just blink her eyes. And lest we forget, there's also the wildly popular "Oh, my God!" scene, which is made even better in different languages. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'Troll/Troll 2' to Blu-ray as a double-feature single-disc release under the distributor's Scream Factory line. The Region A locked, BD50 disc containing both films is housed inside a regular blue case with a DVD of the documentary 'Best Worst Movie' on the opposing panel, which is only included in the first 5,000 copies. At startup, the disc goes to a static screen where viewers can choose between the two movies.
The weird cult favorite contaminates this Blu-ray residence with an obscenely good looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. The picture quality far surpasses anything that could have been expected from something of this caliber, showing clean, distinct lines in the various outfits, hair and the many hilarious 80s furnishings. Not only are pores, wrinkles and negligible blemishes in the faces of the cast plainly visible, but the creepy creatures are particularly slimy and slobbering, exposing the tiniest flaw and imperfection in their design. The 1.85:1 image arrives with comfortably bright contrast and excellent black levels, making the smallest piece of furniture in Eunice St. Clair's apartment discernable. The palette is well-rendered and energetic, providing just enough humor to the creepy silliness. The elements used appear to be in excellent condition with a very fine layer of natural grain throughout, but the transfer does come with the occasional splattering of dirt and white specks. Also, the video comes with its share of soft, blurry moments and a couple spots of blooming. Nevertheless, this is a massive improvement over previous releases. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
The "best worst movie" arrives with the same shockingly good AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1) as seen in the 2010 release. There are some moments of amazing and surprising definition in the surrounding landscape, clothing, and the many fine objects in the background. But the picture does come with its share of poorly-resolved sequences and some mild softness. However, much of the presentation displays excellent clarity and detail for such a low-budget feature. Even in scenes of low lightning, like when the family is trapped inside the house in the third act, shadow details remain strong and clearly visible. Facial complexions appear natural and reveal minor blemishes, like freckles and pimples on certain actors' faces. Contrast and brightness are attractively well-balanced with accurate blacks and crisp, clean whites. Grain can be somewhat inconsistent, but nothing that could be construed as distracting. Colors, especially reds and greens, are richly saturated and vibrant, giving the image some impressive pop and energy. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
Complementing the excellent video is an equally first-rate DTS-HD Master Audio stereo soundtrack, displaying a fantastically spacious and continuously active soundstage that keeps viewers engaged right from the start. The music of Richard Band spreads across the screen with outstanding fidelity and often stunning clarity, exhibiting amazing definition and separation between each instrument and every note played. While the mid-range maintains clean distinction between the frequencies, dialogue and whispered conversations are very well-prioritized and crystal clear in the center, and low-bass is adequate while adding a tiny bit of punch to the score and action. Better still, the lossless mix lends itself nicely to the receiver's DSU function, creating an even wider and satisfyingly immersive soundfield. Not only does Band's music benefit from the upgrade, charmingly bleeding into the surrounds, but discrete effects convincingly and amusingly pan all around for a surprisingly enjoyable and fun track for a low-budget dark fantasy flick such as this. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Like the video, the unrelated sequel comes with a DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack that, for all intents and purposes, is the same one heard on the previous release. Only notable difference is that its predecessor was reportedly in surround sound, yet they both sound identical because the movie has always been a front-heavy track with all the action located in the center. Nevertheless, the soundstage manages to exhibit impressive acoustical presence and richness. The best aspect is the hilarious musical score that generates a wide, welcoming soundfield to keep viewers engaged. Vocals are crystal-clear and intelligible throughout so that listeners never miss out on a single line of bad acting. There really isn't a low-end to speak of, but the mid-range is nicely balanced and sharply consistent. Overall, it's not the sort of material to demo one's sound system, but for a bad low-budget movie, this is pretty darn good. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
An unlikely pair of low-budget schlock productions escape from their mythical forest dwellings to deliver some bizarre, unintentionally funny entertainment. 'Troll' is a freakishly quirky creature feature that while far from scary, manages to somehow mesmerize audiences with its weirdness and odd visual effects. The unrelated sequel is so horribly and embarrassingly bad that it's been ranked one of the worst movies ever made, surprisingly garnering itself a loyal worldwide cult following. The Blu-ray from Scream Factory arrives with shockingly good video and an engaging audio presentation, and the overall package includes a couple supplements fans are sure to love. Best of all, the first 5,000 copies are a combo pack that includes a DVD copy of the documentary 'Best Worst Movie.'