Published May 04, 2009Michael Stephenson was 12 years old when he landed his first movie role, the lead in an Italian horror epic called Goblins. One year later he received the direct-to-video opus as a Christmas present, the title nonsensically changed to Troll 2 — there are no trolls in the film — and excitedly put it in the VCR. The excitement didn't last long. In Best Worst Movie, his new documentary about Troll 2, a now fully-grown Stephenson states unambiguously, "I hated this movie."
Through midnight screenings and word of mouth, Troll 2 has gained a so-bad-it's-good cult following, joining the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space and Manos: The Hands of Fate in the pantheon of so-called "worst movies ever made." Stephenson, still a working actor who spent years crossing Troll 2 off his resume, has gathered together nearly all the film's cast and crew for interviews in an entertaining documentary that's less about the "making of" an inept classic than the impact its notoriety has had on its cast, crew and society at large.
The most amusing interviewee is Claudio Fragasso, Troll 2's no-nonsense director, who sincerely believes he made a great movie; we see him shouting at actors to "stop laughing and be serious!" during re-enactments of Troll 2's most famous moments. But if the documentary has a main character it's George Hardy, an Alabama dentist whose early acting ambitions are rekindled when he finds himself the subject of cheers and adoration at a New York screening. As he excitedly tours the country to attend screenings, we only gradually realize that Hardy's apparent bemusement is a mask behind which he hides a deep, burning desire for fame and recognition.
With other interviewees expressing embarrassment about the film, and with Fragasso slamming them as "actor dogs" for being disrespectful of his work, Best Worst Movie starts as a zippy tribute to a minor cult movie and becomes something deeper: an examination of how one copes with having participated in "the worst movie ever made." (Magic Stone)