Review: “Best Worst Movie” (2010)

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If you’ve been with the Camp long, or have taken time to plumb the depths of my cavernous expanse (ahem.), you might know that I think that there is a special place in movie hell for Troll 2, the 1990 cinematic abortion that I once called “shit at 24 frames-per-second”.

My review of Troll 2 was one of the earliest I ever posted here on the Camp, and I still have people bring it up to me, as somehow my panning of what is one of the most incompetent movies ever dumped onto the corporeal plane encouraged them to actually watch it. And as anyone who has actually seen Troll 2 knows, to watch it is to love it … if by “love it” you mean “want to scour it out of your brain with a bleach-soaked SOS pad”.

The new documentary Best Worst Movie is a charming, disturbing and at times incredibly funny look at the effect that this low-budget piece of garbage has had on fans around the world. And I gotta say, in all honesty, it’s a lot more entertaining than the movie it’s out to celebrate.

bestworstmichaelgeorgeMichael Stephenson and George Hardy

Back in the late ’80s, Michael Stephenson was just a child actor looking for his big break in feature films. He was cast as the lead in the sequel to the surprisingly excellent PG-13 fantasy movie Troll, and thought he had his golden ticket. What he didn’t realize was that he was starring in what would eventually become known as the Worst Movie Ever Made (according to multiple sources, including IMDB).

Fast-forward to now, where Stephenson has not only developed into a ridiculously cuddleworthy man but also has decided to embrace his status as the captain of this particular shitshow. In Best Worst, he tracks down his former costars and the Troll 2 superfans that have made the movie a bona fide cult phenomenon thanks to screenings, parties and events around the world celebrating the movie.

The journey is probably best summed-up when the crew walks into a video store and asks if they carry Troll 2, and are directed by the clerk to the “Holy Fucking Shit” section.

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At the center of this schadenfreudic circle-jerk is George Hardy, the Alabama dentist who played father Michael Waits in the film, his only filmography credit to date. I will begrudgingly admit that I kind of thought that the dad was hot in Troll 2 (mom-jeans and all) and it’s nice to see that Hardy is taking care of himself after all these years. But I digress.

With the wonderfully aw-shucks George in tow, Stephenson travels the country, attending tributes and screenings (all of which draw out massive crowds of Troll 2 superfans) and building cult buzz for the film. I was delighted to see how insanely gay the Troll 2 fandom is – the long-running annual Troll 2 screening party in Los Angeles is barely a gingham dress and a picnic basket away from a Wizard of Oz sing-along.

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They pick up other castmembers along the way (most of them are either dazed that anyone has seen – much less enjoyed – Troll 2, or completely mortified that anyone remembers it) and we see that the years have been kinder to some than others.

Connie Young, who played sister Holly both in and out of the oversized Garfield t-shirt, is still acting and does not put Troll 2 on her resume for fear that anyone would see the film and how FUCKING AWFUL she is in it. She’s visibly disturbed by the cult status that Troll 2 has achieved. Jason Wright, who played boyfriend Elliot, looks EXACTLY the same 20 years later, only now he’s a bestselling author and political journalist.

Saddest of all are the actors who played grandpa and mom – both are now essentially shut-ins, and one is a bona fide crazy cat lady. I’ll let you guess which.

And then there’s Italian director Claudio Fragasso, who comes across as a complete jackass when he reacts with a notable lack of humility to the fact that the runaway success of his crappy videologue to Nilbog is due to how incompetent the film is. A scene late in the movie where he actually yells at the actors during a fan event and calls them “dogs” because they remember being directed badly is uncomfortable in the extreme … which is of course why anyone would want to see this movie to begin with.

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At one point Fragasso defends his utter incompetence as a filmmaker by claiming, “I don’t follow the critics, and the critics don’t follow me.” Uh, not exactly, Cladio – I would have followed you into a dark alley and beaten you with a length of pepperoni until you gave me back my $7 had I actually paid to see Troll 2 in the theater. Lucky for both of us, it was never released.

But the most interesting element of Best Worst Movie (other than the well-employed clips from Troll 2, which are way more entertaining out-of-context) is watching small-town dentist Hardy realize his dreams of fame 20 years after the fact and embrace his fans (although not his horror fans, as we learn in a hilarious trip to a horror convention where George is visibly disgusted by the gorehounds). He’s a fascinating character – far more fascinating than the hollow idiot father he played in Troll 2 - and his reactions to the “success” of Troll 2 are heartbreakingly genuine. (And of course hilarious.)

Whether you’re a Troll 2 superfan, a casual victim of its crimes against the cinema (as I am) or even if you have never seen the movie before (you lucky fucks), Best Worst Movie is a solid and wonderfully oddball tribute to the power of movies to transform, captivate and entertain.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

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Best Worst Movie is rated NR for gratuitous pissing on hospitality, repeated references to Troll 2, and one very crazy cat lady (who appears to have no cats).


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