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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Movie Penguin Monday: #25. Best Worst Movie (2009)

This Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will bestow its highest honor, commonly known as the Oscar, to the best of the best of 2013's offerings from Hollywood (AKA MovieTown, USA).  So, what better way to celebrate this momentous and mandatory occasion than to discuss a documentary about what is inarguably the worst film ever made, Troll 2.  

For lovers of "bad cinema," you can't do much better than Troll 2.  It is the very definition of a "good bad movie."  A lot of movies are terrible, but not all terrible movies are so amazingly, perfectly terrible that they somehow loop back around to being good again.  A "bad movie" is one that is simply mediocre.  A "good bad movie" is a rare, perfect, shitty gem of pure awfulness.  If you don't understand what I'm talking about, why do you even read this blog?  

Movies like Sharknado and Snakes on a Plane are bad for many reasons, but mostly for being obvious attempts, and subsequent failures, at true badness.  A "good bad movie" is one in which everyone involved, but mostly the director, thought he was doing some really special.  You can see the care and concern he put into every crappy frame.  The director of a "good bad movie" truly believed in the story he was putting on screen, and thought, in turn, an audience of fellow human animals would feel the same way.  And then, of course, the film has to be a spectacular failure which is subsequently embraced by hipsters, alternative comedians and weirdos who genuinely enjoy watching garbage for reasons unknown, but probably having to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain.

In my opinion, there exist two truly great good bad movies: The Room and Troll 2.  I think I may have written about The Room on GEP before, so, go back and look for that.  It's totally worth your time, and if you want further proof of that, it's as easy as this: My wife has watched The Room, and she doesn't watching ANYTHING with me, aside from animated films or movies featuring Muppets, good or bad. My wife watched The Room and enjoyed the experience.  It's something special.  Check it out.

Troll 2 is just as good bad.  It's inept in every conceivable way.  From writing to directing to acting to cinematography to costumes to craft services to dance routines, Troll 2 is a straight up disaster.  Here's my favorite scene.  You should know that right before this moment, the boy, Joshua, has urinated all over his family's lunch.

That dad, played by small-town, Alabama dentist George Hardy, referred to as "the rich man's Craig T. Nelson" by the host of a sold-out Troll 2 screening in New York City featured in director Michael Paul Stephenson's Best Worst Movie, is what makes Troll 2, and this resulting Making Of/Behind-the-Scenes Retrospective/Where Are They Now? documentary, so enjoyable.  Hardy's journey from not-at-all being aware that the low-budget horror (not really) sequel he starred in 20 years earlier has become a cult favorite among bad movie lovers to fully embracing his status as a beloved cult actor to growing tired of the fan screenings, poorly attended Q&A sessions overseas and lack of interest from hardcore horror fans at horror conventions to saying he would star in a Troll 3, if there ever was one, without hesitation, provides Best Worst Movie with its backbone.  Hardy seems like the nicest guy on the planet--interviews with members of the community in which he lives and fixes teeth confirm this--and watching him come unglued, albeit in the most subdued, "gee shucks" way possible, at a horror convention in Texas ("I don't understand why people are into this shit."), is comedy gold.  His inability to pronounce Nightmare on Elm Street correctly is pretty funny too.

Before I move on, can we talk about Troll 2's original VHS cover art?

What is that, man?  That movie looks cool.  Nothing like that EVER happens in Troll 2.  The axe-wielding demon troll pictured here appears to be ready to slaughter that little boy (not the little boy from the movie, by the way) and devour him bones and all.  The goblins in Troll 2--yeah, Troll 2 features exactly zero trolls--are strict vegetarians.  And none of them carry axes or stand in foreboding doorways oozing green smoke.  They just, kind of, turn human beings into plant-based goo and, then, eat them.  It's a super inefficient way to be vegetarian when you think about it.

Stephenson, who not only directed Best Worst Movie but starred as Joshua, the boy who pisses in the face (and on the food) of hospitality, catches up with everybody from the cast, but focuses mainly on Hardy, Margo Prey, who plays his "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" loving mother, and Troll 2's director, Italian filmmaker, Claudio Fragasso.

Margo Prey's moments in the movie are either moving or disturbing.  I can't decide.  She cares for her wheelchair-bound mother in a dilapidated house in Salt Lake City and complains that the neighbors are always making noise.  When asked what the noises sound like, Prey begins to "wooooo" like a madwoman.  Which is what she is, probably.  But she also lets Stephenson and Hardy into her house and talks at length with them about their experiences on the set of Troll 2.  They even reenact the car scene:

Claudio Fargasso, Troll 2's director and co-writer, is kind of a dick.  He seems genuinely moved that so many people have embraced his movie, shaking hands with fans waiting in line for sold-out screenings and posing for pictures, but as Best Worst Movie goes on, Fargasso starts to behave as if he's a little more important then he actually is.  His worst moment comes during a huge fan event the Alamo Drafthouse holds in the Utah ghost-town, known as Nilbog in the movie, where Troll 2 was filmed, during a Q&A with the reunited cast, minus Margo Prey, who kindly, but firmly, tells Hardy and Stephenson that she just wants to go somewhere where no one can ever find her.  While one of the actors is telling a story about how he never received a complete script and, therefore, didn't know what the movie was about really, Fargasso heckles him.  He shouts insults at another actor who recounts to an enraptured audience of super fans how difficult it was for the English-speaking American cast to communicate with the exclusively-Italian crew.  Fargasso finally storms outside, calls the actors "dogs" and complains that the whole thing is bullshit.  "I've directed many films in English and have never had a problem," he fumes.  Yeah, you can barely understand him through most of the film.

There is a lot of fun stuff going on in Best Worst Movie, stuff you can probably enjoy without even seeing Troll 2, but I don't encourage that.  In fact, I think you should probably marathon Troll 2 and Best Worst Movie one Saturday afternoon when its rainy outside and your taking a break from Candy Crush or whatever it is you do.  And then watch The Room.  And then maybe Sharknado.  I stand by what I said about it earlier, but it's not without it's charms.  Oh, and watch The Pit.  The Pit needs a cult around it.  Maybe I need to start it.  I'm the only person I know who has ever seen The Pit, aside from the five people I made watch it at a Halloween party once.

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