Troll / Troll 2 Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by John Carl Buechler
Written by Ed Naha
1986, 82 minutes, PG-13
Blu-ray released on November 17th, 2015
Noah Hathaway as Harry Potter Jr.
Michael Moriarty as Harry Potter Sr.
Shelly Hack as Anne Potter
Jenny Beck as Wendy Anne Potter
Phil Fondacaro as Malcolm Mallory/ Torok the Troll
Sonny Bono as Peter Dickinson
June Lockhart as Eunice St. Clair
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Jeanette
Brad Hall as William
Barry Tabor as Duke
Harry Potter has just moved his family into an apartment building filled with quirky residents and a few secrets. Hiding in the laundry room is a hideous troll that abducts Harry’s young daughter Wendy Anne. With the help of a magic ring, the creature disguises himself as the girl and fools everyone except her brother, Harry Jr. The boy knows something is wrong with his sister but nobody will believe him except for the snappish old woman upstairs who may or may not be a witch. The troll sets out to kill and transform the tenants of the building and turn the place into a portal to his dimension. Soon, it is up to young Harry Potter to battle these mystical creatures in order to save his family and possibly the entire human race!
Legendary low-budget producer Charles Band (Trancers) has a big love for small monsters, as evidenced in his multiple franchises including Puppet Master, Ghoulies and Demonic Toys. He came into his own as a mini-mogul in the 1980s with the takeover of Dino De Laurentiis’ Rome studios and quickly cranked out dozens of genre films in a short amount of time. Troll (1986) is a bizarre yet kid-friendly fairy tale that is centered in one location, a large house that genre fans will recognize from other Band productions including Crawlspace and From Beyond. Special make-up effects wizard John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood) makes his directorial debut here, working from a script by Ed Naha (Dolls) that plays fast and loose with its own rules when it comes to the titular character’s abilities. Sometimes he is completely freaked out by the awesome power of the 1980s, while other moments find him casually mingling with the locals and fooling a girl’s parents into believing there is nothing suspicious. The creature effects are the star of the show and frequently have more life than the supporting cast of one-dimensional archetypes. There are several “adorable” monsters that populate the complex and while they are content to remain locked within individual rooms, do share a completely unexpected and awesome musical number.
Phil Fondacaro (The Creeps) stars in a dual role as both the titular creature and the diminutive and benevolent Professor Malcolm Mallory. The latter receives the most character development and Fondacaro excels in the sequences where he bonds with the little girl. As the troll, he is both mischievous and creepy and Buechler’s facial make-up allows for an expressive and realistic performance. Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story) is awkwardly heroic as young Harry Potter, and carries a lot of the picture on his shoulders which are thankfully up to the task. Jenny Beck (Tightrope) is clearly having fun as the possessed Wendy Anne, a challenging position, as the child’s tantrums quickly grow tiresome but the actress remains likeable. The parents, Harry and Anne Potter played by Michael Moriarty (Q: The Winged Serpent) and Shelly Hack (The Stepfather), do little more than doubt their children and fill the authority figure positions, though Moriarty is treated to his own song and dance solo.
The supporting cast is made up of a lot of familiar faces, most notably Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) as Jeanette, the aspiring actress who pops in occasionally until she crosses paths with the troll. Brad Hall (The Guardian) plays her good-natured boyfriend William, and the two share a fun chemistry onscreen and off (the couple married in reality in 1987). Singer and politician Sonny Bono (Hairspray) brings some comic relief as horny swinger Peter Dickinson, a man with no time for precocious kids. Barry Tabor (WKRP in Cincinnati) is another welcome face as Duke, the gung-ho Marine that lives across the hall. As talented as many of these people are, they really only exist as fodder for the monster to turn into more little creatures. The sole exception to the supporting cast is June Lockhart (Lost in Space) as Eunice St. Clair, the benevolent neighbor with insight into what is going on in the building, but somehow does nothing until 90% of the troll’s plan is in place. In a truly wonderful casting decision, Lockhart’s daughter Ann plays a younger version of the character.
Troll is a goofy movie that is not entirely terrible but is occasionally too cute for its own good. The cast elevates the material and Buechler proves to be the right director for the job. He has long lobbied for a remake that as of this writing is currently in development for a 2016 release, in time for this film’s 30th anniversary. One final note about Buechler: genre fans familiar with his distinct physical appearance will garner a few smiles from the odd portrait hanging in Ms. St. Claire’s study.
Directed by Claudio Fragasso (as Drake Floyd)
Written by Rossella Drudi and Claudio Fragasso (as Drake Floyd)
1990, Region A, 95 minutes, PG-13
Michael Stephenson as Joshua
George Hardy as Michael
Margo Prey as Diana
Connie McFarland as Holly
Robert Ormsby as Grandpa Seth
Deborah Reed as Creedence Leonore Gielgud
Jason Wright as Elliott
Darren Ewing as Arnold
Jason Steadman as Drew
Michael and Diana Waits are worried about their young son Joshua, who insists he is being visited by the ghost of his Grandpa Seth. Teenage daughter Holly is the source of more concern as she is hanging around with no-good boys. A family exchange program promises to be the solution to both problems, and soon the Waits are on their way to the mysterious town of Nilbog for some quality hospitality. Something is not quite right with the residents of the community, who act as though they can barely contain a secret. They are overly friendly, but behave in an increasingly suspicious manner. Grandpa Seth warns Joshua that his family is in danger of being eaten by goblins and it is up to the boy to destroy the evil and save humanity. This is a really broad-strokes plot synopsis that does not do this film justice - the picture really needs to be seen to be believed.
Considered one of the worst movies in cinema history, Troll 2 is a spectacular example of how not to make a film and is stunning in just how awful it is in almost every way. There appears to have been a conscious effort to sabotage this production through incompetence, yet it is this very ineptitude that makes the project soar to new heights of enjoyability. Director Claudio Fragasso (Monster Dog), hiding under the alias Drake Floyd, has created something wonderful despite the limitations of his best efforts. What works above all else in this picture is his sincerity. Had he set out to deliberately make a piece of garbage, the gag would grow stale quickly, but his total failure as a filmmaker is the best reward. Casting a group of non-actors and surrounding them with some of the silliest looking monster make-up effects is just the beginning of what makes this flick so delightful. As an added bonus, the dialogue sounds like it was written in a foreign language and passed through Google Translate a few times before the script was handed out to the cast.
Nerds will debate the concept of a sequel that surpasses the original in a series. The Godfather Part II, Aliens and The Empire Strikes Back are all listed as top contenders for the position. Unlike all of these and countless others, Troll 2 is unique in that not only was a sequel never planned for Troll (1986), but this flick has nothing to do with its predecessor other than cribbing the title. Goblin would be a more appropriate name, as that is what our heroes are up against... goblins. Luckily for genre fans looking to elevate a clunker to cult status, the movie recently took on a new life when filmmaker Michael Stephenson (who played Joshua) provided an insider’s perspective with his documentary Best Worst Movie that chronicles the making of the 1990 production. Watching this companion piece will provide a nice perspective that will enable fans to cherish this experience even more.
Video and Audio:
Both features are presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality on Troll is fairly sharp with strong colors, deep blacks and natural-looking flesh tones throughout. There is a bit of heavy grain, but given the age and budget of the film, I cannot complain, as this is the best it is likely going to look. Troll 2 was previously released on Blu-ray by MGM a few years ago and this appears to be the same solid transfer. The picture is a little bright and does not do the weak goblin costumes any favors, but that has more to do with the source material.
Both films offer a single DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that preserves the original stereo mix. The audio on Troll is a bit more impressive than that found on the sequel, but dialogue remains clear and free from distortion across the board.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Troll Empire (50 minutes) is an informative and entertaining retrospective documentary that focuses on the talent behind the camera. There are many insightful tales chronicling the path of this project from concept to finished film. Interviews with Buechler, Naha, Band and members of the effects team are all welcome additions, but the piece would really benefit from appearances by even a single cast member, preferably Fondacaro.
A photo gallery offers a look at marketing materials and publicity shots that plays as a slide show over select cues from the film’s soundtrack.
Troll 2 features an audio commentary with actors George Hardy and Deborah Reed. The track is pretty fun and it is nice to hear that Hardy’s enthusiasm for the project remains intact. Reed offers some insight into her wardrobe choices and her approach to the goblin queen character. Hardy also provides a few additional updates on the current status of members of the cast and crew.
Theatrical trailers for both films are also provided.
A DVD copy of the spectacular documentary Best Worst Movie has been included in the packaging and comes highly recommended. This item’s availability is limited to the first 5,000 copies of the release, so act fast.