Monday, July 29, 2013

5th Monday Ugh: Troll 2 (Movie)


I must admit, I struggled in deciding whether or not I should count "Troll 2" as a 5th Monday Ugh or as a bonafide Great Work. After probably more deliberation than I could rightfully justify, I decided it should be considered an "Ugh" on the basis that the creators were trying to create something else and failed. What they ended up creating, however, is nothing short of a joy to behold.

Perhaps you are already familiar with the background* behind this incredible movie, but if not, here it is in a nutshell. In order to understand the grandeur of the film, I feel it is imperative to know a bit about how it came to be. Drake Floyd is the American-ish pseudonym of Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso. Before making "Troll 2," Floyd mostly worked on low budget slasher and zombie films. "Troll 2" is probably his most personal project, considering the screenplay was penned by his wife and was based on her original ideas. And boy are they ever original! Now, you might be asking yourself, why "Troll 2?" What about "Troll 1?" Well, the reason I'm not addressing the first "Troll" film is that it doesn't have anything to do with the work in question. The decision to change the title to "Troll 2" from the original title "Goblins" was an eleventh-hour attempt on the studio's part to squeeze a little more money out of the movie on the grounds that "Troll" was moderately successful considering its low budget.

"This is their kingdom!"
This would perhaps be a good strategy if it weren't for three things: 1) The films have no story or thematic continuity between them, as neither were created with the other in mind. 2) The films are not the same genre. "Goblins" was meant to be a dark horror film, whereas "Troll" was a good-natured fantasy. 3) THERE ARE NO TROLLS IN TROLL 2. You heard me. Not one. Sadly, Kevin Murphy's clever quip from The Wickerman Rifftrax ("This movie has as many wicker men in it as 'Troll 2' has trolls,") turns out not to be accurate, since in "The Wickerman" there is one wicker man on screen at the end of the movie. The only time anything that has to do with trolls appears in "Troll 2" is the on-screen wording of the opening and closing credits.

The best horror films and books often have morals buried within them. For example, Stephen King's Pet Semetary is a cleverly packaged warning against the dangers of fixation. It shows us in horrific detail what can happen to a person chooses to be blind to their own growing addictions. "Troll 2" also has a moral: vegetarians are annoying. I mean it. Floyd's wife, Rossella Drudi, flat-out said that was the point of the script. She got the idea for it after a few too many lunches with her vegetarian friends. Accordingly, the goblins in the film turn people into a plant-like food and eat them, which helps us understand how real-life vegetarians are no good.

"Our queen...needs us..."

"Troll 2" was filmed in Utah in the late 80's with an all-Italian crew and an all-American cast. Now, that wouldn't be such a big deal except for the fact that only one crew member (the costume designer) was actually fluent in both languages. Cast members recount how disconnected the directing was because of this. In one memorable day of shooting an actor was told by Floyd to "go upstairs" during the shot. Unfortunately, they were outside at the time, and no stairs were in sight. Some of the little people who play the goblins in the movie reminisced that typically when making a film you don't ever see a full script, but you start to get a sense of the film's continuity as you show up for filming day after day, but with "Troll 2," they became less certain of what they were involved in each time they went to a shoot.

"You can't piss on hospitality! I won't allow it!"
The wording of most of the lines in the movie is unnatural to say the least, as it was written by an ESL Italian woman. Cast members suggested that--knowing the general purpose of the lines--they might reword some of it to sound more American without losing any meaning. Floyd rudely denied this request, demanding they speak each line verbatim come Hell or high water, arguing that he was "more American than any American director," and as such, perfectly aware of how Americans spoke. As a result, we get exchanges like this:

    Elliott: I'm the victim of a nocturnal rapture. I have to release my lowest instincts with a woman.
    Holly: [Punches Elliott in the groin] Release your instincts in the bathroom.
    Elliott: Are you nuts? You tryin' to turn me into a homo?
    Holly: Wouldn't be too hard. If my father discovers you here, he'd cut off your little nuts and eat them. He can't stand you.

And this:

    Diana: Joshua, start singing. Come on, sing that song I like so much.
    Joshua: I don't feel like singing, Mom!
    Diana: Just sing.
    Joshua: [singing] Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream...
    DianaJoshua: [both singing] Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream...

Truthfully, I could probably just copy/paste the entire script in here and it would make for an enjoyable read, but better to watch the film and hear the horrendous delivery of the lines along with it.

What makes this film so wonderful, so darn likable, is its energy. Its confidence and passion for itself. Undeniably, it's a terrible movie, but no one bothered to tell anybody that while they were filming. Every line is delivered at the height of energy. Nothing is thrown away here. Everyone on screen is committed %110. This is probably because the filmmaker couple that produced it loved it. To this day they stand behind the film as great art, despite the fact that they know it has a reputation as being one of the worst films ever made. Floyd even went so far as to say that having someone tell you this is the worst movie ever made is the exact same thing as them saying it's the best movie ever made. (???)

"Try some, boy, and have some of your friends drink some also."
You go girl.

There are various production notes that would enrich the viewer's experience, but here are two that I feel are indispensable. A dentist who showed up hoping to be an extra in the movie, thinking it might be a fun experience, was cast as one of the main characters, Michael. He was chosen exclusively based on how he looked, and the fact that he was not an actor is more than apparent. The other interesting factoid is that the drugstore owner was cast using an inmate of a local insane asylum who was--get this--out on a one day pass. He has since been cured of his insanity and lives a more or less normal life. Of his role in the film, he has explained that the creepiness you see on screen is not acting, and that he was not fully aware at the time that he was in a movie.

After watching the film, it is an interesting exercise to try to make some sense out of it. I'm not going to get into all that here, but I challenge you and your friends to map out exactly what happened during the film, and--for maximum entertainment--what the supernatural rules are for this world. For example, if the movie were about vampires, you could make a list of rules the movie did or didn't employ. These vampires can't go outside during the daytime...they don't turn into bats...that sort of thing. What rules do the goblins here follow?

That's right. Hot. Sexy. Corn.
Finally, there is one last scene I'd like to address, though admittedly I could go on about "Troll 2" for maybe twenty or thirty pages. I am of course referring to the scene in which Creedence Leonore Gielgud (a gem among gems in this movie) goes to the boys' camper and seduces a young man with an ear of corn. Had it been intentional, this scene would deserve to go down in history's books as one of the greatest avant-guade displays of surreal comedy ever created in any medium. Everything in this four minute encounter should be intensely studied by writers and performers of comedy, from the slightly off-tune saxophone background music (which abruptly stops without the actress being informed, as she can be seen still gyrating slowly in the silence), to the inexplicable delivery of the line, "Actually I like popcorn," to the...well, I wouldn't want to spoil the scene's twist ending...

I'm sure I've rambled on enough about this. If you're still reading stop reading, and go watch yourself some "Troll 2!"

"I must do it! I must do it!"

-MA 7.29.2013

*The information on this film comes from various internet resources such as Wikipedia, as well as from the 2010 documentary "Best Worst Movie."


  1. "Elliot's part of the family now!"

  2. I love, love, love everything about the history of this film. It was a perfect storm of crazy.