Under The Radar: ‘Best Worst Movie’

Best Worst MovieIt’s no rarity to squabble over which is the best film ever made. If you call yourself a diehard movie geek, this debate is complicated by the myriad titles and categories you watch with regularity; whittling your innumerable choices down to one film becomes nearly impossible. But how often do we engage in dialogue over which is the worst film of all time? Personally, as a connoisseur of terrible cinema, I find myself in this debate as often as the one over cinematic superiority. While outwardly it may seem the antithesis of filmmaking to produce a movie worthy of entry onto the list of worst films of all time, there are instances when a certain amount of distinction is lavished upon the truly horrendous films of the world, and when those involved find themselves the unexpected heroes of the cult movie masses.

Such is the case with a little-known, and less regarded, horror sequel from 1989. The film was Troll 2, and it had absolutely nothing to do with its predecessor: 1986’s Troll. Troll 2 is so awful that it actually invents new facets of filmmaking just to fail at achieving any proficiency in them. The story is about as slapped together as an Italian-produced, name-only horror sequel shooting in Utah could hope for, and to say its cast is lacking in thespian chops is to say that The Grand Canyon is a bit of a hole. There are moments in Troll 2 that are so inexplicably inept as to leave us scratching our heads in stunned disbelief. It was released to deafening silence and, with the inception of various internet rating sites years later, would garner a reputation as the worst film of all time.

But then something amazing happened. All over the country, decades after its release, reperatory and specialty theaters began screening the film to sold-out audiences. It seemed that Troll 2 had fostered a certain amount of ironic appreciation within the hardcore cult film lovers that had then blossomed into a full-scale love affair. My beloved Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, TX was among the theaters celebrating this cinematic Hindenburg. Suddenly members of the Troll 2 cast were being contacted to attend screenings of a film most of them had tried to repress into oblivion, and were greeted as superstars.

Enter Michael Stephenson, the now grown actor who played the little boy in Troll 2, with an idea. Michael decided to make a documentary about the colossal initial failure of Troll 2 and its Phoenix-like rise back to mainstream popularity. He assembled clips of several screenings of the film as well as interviewed nearly every single human being involved with the production of Troll 2 in an effort to understand what the film really meant to him and why it had found a new audience. The documentary essentially follows George Hardy, the actor who played the father in Troll 2 and who is one of the nicest guys on the planet as he deals with the roller-coaster of middling celebrity. The documentary is called Best Worst Movie, and it hit DVD shelves on Tuesday.

Troll 2Though the assumed hyperbole here is doubly dubious considering the title of the film, I am not blowing smoke when I say that Best Worst Movie is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. Do yourself a favor and go purchase it immediately. Even if you have no inclination as to what Troll 2 is and don’t see yourself manifesting any interest in seeing it, Best Worst Movie is so much more than the chronicle of a terrible film. This is a documentary about the completely unbridled passion for all things film. It not only reaffirms the cinephile tendencies in all of us, but also speaks to the subjectivity and power of art in general. No matter how bad a piece of music, a film, a book, or a painting is, it will always register with someone in a very tangible way. That is a beautiful notion. Not to mention the fact that Best Worst Movie is downright hilarious and some of the interviewees are far more absurd and cartoonish than their antecedent characters in Troll 2.

Uplifting, well constructed, and thoroughly entertaining, Best Worst Movie is a near perfect documentary. I would recommend watching Troll 2 directly before seeing Best Worst Movie, but the documentary is so compelling that it isn’t entirely necessary.