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Michael Paul Stephenson
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In 1989, unwitting Utah actors starred in the undisputed Worst Movie in History: TROLL 2. Two decades later, the legendarily inept film's child star unravels the improbable, heartfelt story of an Alabama dentist-turned-cult movie icon and an Italian filmmaker who come to terms with this genuine, internationally revered cinematic failure.Written by
the cult around the "worst" movie loved by so many, and the people in the whirlpool of "fame"
The actors just hoped for the best with Troll 2, at the time of shooting called Goblin (named for the name of the town in the film, 'Nilbog', get it?). The script was awkward, the creature effects shoddy, and most of the Italian crew, including director Claudio Fragasso, and nobody really knew what would happen with the movie. No theatrical release, straight to video and HBO, and when people saw it (save for the director, who still thinks it's a good movie, and the actress who played the mother, Margo Prey, who thought it was a solid "actors" movie) they knew how bad it was... and that included what is now the director of the documentary on Troll 2, Michael Stephenson, who played the lead kid/protagonist in Troll 2. He goes back to visit all the actors in the film, what they're up to, and then confront them with an astounding fact: Troll 2, in small-certain circles, is a big, big deal.
One of the main keys here is that the documentary works kind of like a cross between American Movie and Overnight, only it's all taking place many years after the fact. You have the 'characters' who are kind of nutty (the guy who was actually in a mental asylum and let out one day to play the store clerk in the film, Don Packard), and the ones who just tried to put it aside and get on with a career without Troll 2 (Connie Young as the daughter Waits in the film). And then there's George Hardy, who is like the anti Troy Duffy: instead of an obnoxious jerk, Hardy is the guy everybody likes (which could be to a fault, but who cares) and has that nice, sweet, all-American disposition working as a dentist and always with a smile or a laugh. And when he finds out Troll 2 is such a cult, he not only embraces it, he goes with it on tour!
This is also a wonderful treat for those film fans who know what it's like to find a movie so-bad-it's-fun like Troll 2. We see them here at the screenings that take place midnight all across the country, from New York to Los Angeles and cities in-between (most touching is the first screening that happens almost underground at a comedy club of all places and where the first real rise of Troll-mania happens). Stephenson gets what it's like for these people to be such fans, and that the cast (save for Prey who doesn't show up cause of her sick mother, and the director who is bitter about the guilty-pleasure love) gets what kind of audience loves Troll 2. As a cult you get the guy who tattoos Troll 2 on his arm. You get the people wearing their hand-made t-shirts. You get people who drive six hundred God-knows-how-many miles for a screening. And of course they all know all the words.
Stephenson captures what a phenomena like this is like, and at the same time the bittersweet coin of sudden "fame". Hardy goes all the way to Britain to promote Troll 2, and it's a little staggering to find out a) he didn't see if, you know, there were actual FANS of the film willing to go to conventions for it like they did the screenings in the states, and b) people don't seem to automatically find it cool all the time to be the "worst movie ever made" (smile). This also happens in Dallas at a convention we see, albeit the one time Hardy loses the admiration (at least from me) is when he slams the people who come to horror conventions, without realizing how horror audiences can be at such places, or that, you know, Troll 2 is still and always will be a big film for some, and for others they'll have a blank look on their faces.
Which, at the end of it all is fine for someone like Hardy, a genuine real-deal of a man who is fine with his dentist practice (albeit he is now acting in a few intentionally crappy movies like Ghost Shark 2), and for the director Fragasso and his co-writer wife who continue to berate the cast's friendly bashing of the film and the production, since, well, they think they did a good job with the movie (at one point, kind of unintentionally funny, Fragasso ponders why the audience laughs at the parts that "aren't meant to be funny", while also pointing out that the audience "saved" the movie from obscurity). Stephenson gets the human angle of everyone in the movie and understands them, even someone who could have been painted as a crazy like Margo Prey (who for some she may be anyway). And for such a movie like Troll 2 to get mainstream attention, if just for a little while, it's a swell treat for a movie so hilariously s***ty.
Moral of the story: You can't p*** on hospitality, I WONT ALLOW IT!
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