Blu-ray Review: TROLL and TROLL 2

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Join SHOCK as we tear into the new Blu of TROLL and TROLL 2.

EMPIRE Pictures fans haunting video stores in 1986 were more often than not looking for boundary-pushers along the lines of Stuart Gordon’s double shot of RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND so, when we stumbled upon TROLL, we were doomed to be disappointed. FX wizard John Carl Buechler’s PG rated monster flick isn’t a horror film at all; it’s a fantasy film, filled with amateur wizards, weird worlds, witches and derring-do and famously, the child hero’s name is even Harry Potter, leading to a lengthy controversy wherein producer Charles Band and writer Ed Naha have alluded to the possibility that writer J.K. Rowling may have stumbled upon the film and (ahem) borrowed certain elements for her juggernaut book and film series.

So no, TROLL was and is not a horror film and when viewed almost three decades ago, it was cited as a fairly inept bit of nonsense. Today however, TROLL is rather charming and, especially when viewed on the top half of the Blu-ray from retro-genre heroes Scream Factory, a lively bit of low-budget hokum.

The film stars the great Michael Moriarty (Q, THE STUFF, BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY) as Harry Potter Sr., the patriarch of a family that just moved into a low rise LA apartment (in reality, a set on the De Laurentiis/EMPIRE studios lot in Rome, the same one used for Band’s 1988 classic, CRAWLSPACE and many others), a modest tenement that is packed with eccentric neighbors (including the late Sonny Bono and, outrageously, Julia Louis-Dreyfus aka Elaine from SEINFELD!) and is home to a malevolent troll in the basement. Said beastie (played by Band regular Phil Fondacaro, who also appears sans makeup as kindly professor) takes possession of Potter’s daughter, who then runs around growling, biting and treating her milquetoast older brother, Harry Potter Jr. (Noah Hathaway), like shit.

Pretty soon the troll-in-girls’ clothing starts infiltrating apartments and turning the residents into plants; giant pea-pods that birth a whack of Buechler-sculpted GHOULIES leftovers that are both slimy and kinda cute. Like Boglins. Remember Boglins?

Meanwhile LOST IN SPACE vet June Lockhart plays a witch with a pet mushroom that is actually her husband and who trains Potter Jr. to awaken his inner wizard and send the nasty troll back to the netherworld. Which he does, but not before the troll (who was once the witch’s lover) turns Louis-Dreyfus into a nude, cloned nymph. And then the movie gets weird…

Anyway, TROLL is a totally unique bit of insanity, with bizarre scenes that go on forever (watch the ridiculous sequence where Moriarty does a mad dance to crunchy version of the chestnut rock tune “Summertime Blues”), nutty performances and rather lovely touches like an impromptu musical number wherein all the puppets start singing a sort of shanty. It’s aged really well and is great for kids. Mine loved it.

Then we have TROLL 2.

Which of course, as everyone knows, is not  a legitimate TROLL  sequel but rather a shockingly inept Italian horror film called GOBLINS, re-titled for its home video premiere (there are no trolls in it at all) and directed by frequent Bruno Mattei collaborator Claudio Fragasso (credited here under the nom-de-plume, Drake Floyd), produced by Europorn/horror king Joe D’Amato and starring a dentist.

What’s to say about TROLL 2 that hasn’t already been said? It is beyond a doubt one of the most dreadful, brain-dead, logic-defying genre movies ever made, with brutal special (d)effects and operatically awful performances by non-actors (including that dentist, a good old boy named George Hardy) that seem beamed in from other planets.

In it, a kid (Michael Stephenson) has a bedtime story read to him by the ghost of his dead grandfather, about a race of goblins who make idiots eat green food, turning them into veggie-meat and eating them alive. When the spooked kid’s dad (Hardy) enrolls his lucky brood in a family exchange program with the rural town of Nilbog, he ends up placing them all on the menu. See Nilbog spelled backwards is actually…wait for it…goblin!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tFgZ6DmXmw

So wildly pitiful is TROLL 2 that it has, over the years, locked a devoted cult following of folks who love to laugh at it, enough so that the now adult Stephenson made a documentary about the cult surrounding the film. That doc, amusingly titled BEST WORST MOVIE, played festivals worldwide to great acclaim and is included here in the limited edition version of this double-feature set. It’s an entertaining watch and, if nothing else, makes you fall in love with Hardy, who is a kind of oral surgeon/saint that stepped out once and made a movie that he thought no one would see and is now clearly enjoying his counter-culture infamy.

The set comes packed with extras, including a full-length doc on the making of TROLL with Buechler, Band, his brother, composer Richard Band (whose score is typically lush) and Naha. TROLL 2 features a charming, meandering commentary with Hardy and actress Deborah Reed. These two movies, linked only by some marketing stiff’s delusions of dollars, make for a fascinating double-feature: one knows exactly what kind of movie it is, the other…well…the other knows it’s a movie. We think.

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Weekend: Sep. 19, 2019, Sep. 22, 2019

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