Best Worst Movie Review
By Joe Buckley
“There’s no coffee here in Nilbog, it’s the Devil’s drink!”
A documentary centred around an obscure and cheap Italian film about goblins would usually be a hard sell. Fortunately, that film just so happens to be one of the most majestic, awe-inspiring and socially significant pieces of art that has ever been produced: its name? Troll 2. To be honest, Best Worst Movie is just about as perfect as the film which it focuses on, and this time that compliment is not accompanied by a tongue-filled cheek. While many fans would be satisfied with a mere ‘making of’ documentary, Best Worst Movie surpasses that simple function, with it instead being an insight into the effect of fame and adoration, plus the almost profound impact that one film can have on both its stars and fans.
The film opens up with a portrait of an incredibly likeable small town Alabama dentist named George Hardy. His patients love him, his staff love him, and even the whole town view him as a pure warmth of sunshine in their lives. While his life may seem somewhat normal, George has a strange anomaly in his past, as he just so happened to have a starring role in one of the worst films ever made (a claim which is made by many of his friends and family.) The story of the documentary focuses mostly around his acceptance and love for his role as a cult icon, attending conventions, screenings and turning something which would normally be something to hide into his own source of self-worth. The documentary itself is directed by Michael Stephenson, who played the leading role as Joshua Waits, the child hero who has to save his family from the wrath of vegetarian goblins… with the help of urine and a double decker baloney sandwich. He himself has had a mixed relationship with Troll 2, with the experience of finally viewing the film, which he thought would be his big break, being a heart wrenching and confidence destroying ordeal. Following the rise of Troll 2 as a cult phenomenon, Hardy and Stephenson form a camaraderie of sorts, travelling across America attending screenings and tracking down their fellow cast and crew to find out how the film affected them, with the results of the latter being the film’s main draw.
It is truly astonishing that the experiences of the people involved in this infamous train wreck could be so compelling, rich and at times somewhat profound, with George Hardy’s own story arc providing a fascinating portrait of cult fame. What begins as confusion quickly evolves into a sense of acceptance and pride, with the resulting journey into the world of Troll 2almost becoming a quasi-ego trip (thankfully he never loses his innate lovability, charm and sincerity.) However, he begins to grow tired of the same routine, such as performing the same catchphrase a ridiculous number of times, whilst also experiencing a certain level of dissolution and bewilderment with the environment that he has immersed himself in, leading to an incredibly funny scene in a horror convention (“These folks are weird!”)
However, the documentary also presents experiences and moments that are often flat-out tragic in nature, adding a shade of sombreness into this incredibly rich film. While the general store scene in Troll 2 is perhaps one of its most comedic moments (“There’s no coffee here in Nilbog, it’s the Devil’s drink!”), the story of Wade Jones, the man who portrayed the store owner, is far more harrowing, as he tells of his long term battle with mental illness and self-loathing. Despite his tale of sadness, there is a somewhat uplifting outcome, as he describes the sheer joy and comfort that he felt with himself when he was met with great applause at a Troll 2 screening, thus evolving into a rather touching story by the end. Perhaps it can be argued that the true sadness in the tale is that ironic acclaim had been confused for genuine acclaim, but it would be rather cynical to detract from such a moving moment. The scenes with Wade Jones are just some of the more sombre moments within Best Worst Movie, including the tale of the soft spoken Robert Ormsby (the actor who portrayed Grandpa Seth) and Margo Prey, who is the only main member of cast who chose not to attend any Troll 2 reunion events. Although, we do witness an odd and awkward interview with her, in which she speaks of her anxiety issues and her… shall we say, questionable view of Troll 2 (she compares Troll 2 to Casablanca in terms of human drama.)
Claudio Fragasso, the director of Troll 2, provides a fascinating character study which could honestly hold up as a stand-alone film. He is perhaps a rather stereotypical Italian man, with flamboyant hand gestures and an intense level of passion burning through him. Interestingly, he seems incredibly conflicted with his film and the level of love that it has received over the years. He adores the affection fans have towards the film, yet seems rather puzzled by the phenomenon. He can be at times friendly and loving towards the cast, yet at others can lash out at them and blame them for the film’s faults. He accepts the cult status that the film has, yet still holds the delusion that the film is a compelling portrayal and homage to American life. While he may be a walking contradiction, his obvious passion grants him a certain level of charm, which luckily forgives him of his film-making flaws. Plus, the man must be credited for his profound contribution towards cinema.
Charm and sincerity are perhaps the greatest assets that Best Worst Movie holds, managing to portray a niche following in a way that is accessible to a general public, which is often a rather difficult task. After all, trying to explain to someone why they should watch an admittedly awful film is a pitch which is going to be a tough sell. Thankfully, the fans and cast manage to perform that task perfectly, expressing a certain kind of love for a film which is both unique and incredibly rich. Best Worst Movie is a fantastic portrayal of how ‘art’ can affect us, whether it is well made, or an abomination of film-making. The thing that makes Troll 2 both strange and wonderful is that there are films which are infinitely better written, acted or produced and yet are nowhere near as enjoyable or significant. It’s a film that brings incredible joy to those who watch it, and Best Worst Movie is the perfect homage to its legacy.
Back in July Bill Gordon and Joe Buckley attended a double screening of Troll 2 and Best Worst Movie. Click HERE for Bill’s review of Troll 2.