Best Worst Movie (2009)
Reviewed by Paul McCannibal
Starring George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, Darren Ewing, Jason Wright
Directed by Michael Stephenson
This documentary starts out as a study of the grassroots phenomenon born of 80’s VHS turkey Troll 2, a movie that is apparently so bad it’s been called the worst movie ever made. Troll 2 is the good kind of bad, where the humor of its failings gives it an altogether different entertainment value than it was ever intended for.
Over the years fans of Troll 2 across the USA and Canada have organized Troll 2 screening parties, and it really caught on in a surprisingly big way. Some of the Troll 2 nights are modest, thrown together by a few rabid fans in office parties and basement gatherings with like-minded friends. Other screenings are much bigger in scale, selling out entire theatres in Los Angeles, Boston, and New York, with all kinds of paraphernalia on display from T-shirts to posters to self-made costumes modeled on characters in the film. Organizers of the bigger screenings logically contacted the actors of Troll 2 to add another level to the events, leading to uproarious Q&A’s and interactions between the cast and their fans. The whole thing appears to be continuing to gather momentum.
This part of the movie is really fun and intriguing. The Troll 2 sensation is a bit like the ongoing appeal surrounding The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where mega-fans know the dialogue line for line and they go nuts shouting or singing along with the movie in certain places. You’ll get to see a lot more people freaking out about this obscure movie than you’d ever imagine possible.
From there, we’re taken into the lives of the stars (if that’s even the right word!) of Troll 2. Director Michael Stephenson played the red haired kid in Troll 2 and was moved enough by the fact that it became a cult phenomenon to explore the extent of it. He rounds up the people involved in the making of it for candid “where are they now” exposes and interviews.
Some of the cast members of Troll 2 come across as tragic figures who have become validated in a small but significant way by the Troll 2 phenomenon. Other actors have mixed feelings about their fame in relation to this movie and are uncomfortable with embracing it too much. This stuff is, again, interesting and charming.
However, the bulk of the film centers on Troll 2 star George Hardy, a dentist who you can just tell has missed his true calling. This guy should have been an actor. He’s a prominent figure and an enthusiastic familiar face at community events in his home town, a guy who everyone seems to know and love. Once the Troll 2 phenomenon is brought to his attention, he dives in headfirst to revel in his new-found fame and fan adoration.
This is where the effect of the movie got uncomfortable in places. George Hardy rightly soaks up the limelight and has fun with his new-found fame – who wouldn’t? But along the way his naivety factors in as he throws his stardom in the faces of everyday people who don’t have a clue what Troll 2 is. He attends a couple of conventions where no one really cares about Troll 2 and starts complaining about the lack of attention while looking down his nose at the at the general fanaticism the horror/cult/sci-fi fanbase is rife with, essentially sneering at something directly comparable to what it was that brought him the gift of unexpected fame in the first place.
This behavior didn’t reflect very well on poor George. Unlike other actors in the film who are simply having fun with the attention and not taking things very seriously, George’s over-the-top enthusiasm on being the star of Troll 2 wavers directly in relation how much attention he himself is getting, which is kinda uncool if you ask me. He even seems to give up on the phenomenon at one point, saying he’s sick of Troll 2. And guess when that happens? When he’s not being adored, of course.
But now, because of the success and intrigue created by Best Worst Movie, George is back on the circuit again, and he seems to be ecstatic once again with the second wave of attention this documentary has brought him. It’s to the film’s credit that it doesn’t shy away from showing how much George Hardy wants it to be about George Hardy. George even says at one point how glad he is that the director of Troll 2 isn’t around during a period of the filming of the documentary, because the director’s presence took some of the attention away from him! Oh well. At least George is completely honest about what he’s in it for, which is kind of funny even if the joke is somewhat on him for being that way.
Speaking of, Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso is a piece of work! This guy comes across the Atlantic from Italy to check out the buzz over his nearly 2-decade old movie, and he doesn’t appear to be ready for the fact that people love it specifically because it’s bad. He never once relents and says “Okay, I know it sucks!” Both he and the writer of Troll 2 Rossella Drudi continue to take the intent of their efforts in making Troll 2 rather seriously, leading for some awkward and baffling interview sequences. But I kind of liked Fragasso’s take on the Troll 2 phenomenon. He’s an old school hard-head of a director who is proud of what he’s done no matter what anyone else thinks, and he makes no bones in telling off fans and actors who take pleasure in mocking Troll 2 or celebrating its badness. Fragasso still ultimately gets that a lot of people love Troll 2, and who knows if he’s being facetious with his unrepentant stubbornness in taking Troll 2 seriously. And it’s more fun this way. Maybe Fragasso knows that refusing to be in on the joke makes the overall joke even better.
Best Worst Movie has parallels to Anvil: The story of Anvil. Both are feel-good documentaries where something that could easily have disappeared into obscurity is vaulted into the populist realm by nature of a grassroots movement. If you liked Anvil, you’ll probably like Best Worst Movie, because they work fundamentally as entertainment on similar levels. A good way to kill a couple of hours.
3 1/2 out of 5
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