Troll 2 (1990)

There is no film I can think of to better inaugurate my new collection of full-length movie reviews than Troll 2, watched here in honor of the 10 year anniversary of a Facebook movie request thread in which my brothers’ friends have recommended Troll 2 (and only Troll 2, occasionally in roundabout and shaggy ways) for over 1,000 comments. At its peak, it was getting dozens of comments a day — now somebody thinks to post the comment only once a month or so.

Troll 2 is an unrateable movie, but I’m going to rate it anyways. As with the capsule reviews I’ve been writing, I will be using the “Is It Good?” rating scale that I conceived of for the podcast that Brian and I are starting.

This has a reputation for being one of the worst movies of all time, but this is patently not true. To be clear, it is not a good movie in many ways that filmmaking is typically measured. But it’s not a gutter dive, either — there are some production values, here. Claudio Fragasso knows how to use a camera and compose a shot… every now and then, even well. And whatever the movie’s sins are, it is certainly not boring. How could a movie be the “worst” if it is genuinely fun to watch?

But yes, its craft is indeed equal parts incompetent and mind-meltingly bizarre. The two strangest components are the writing and the acting. I have not seen Best Worst Movie, the documentary of the making and reception to this film, and have no knowledge of the film’s production history, but the screenplay feels as if it was written by someone for whom English isn’t their first language and never revised. The actors, meanwhile, always look as confused about the film’s vision as I feel when I watch. Their deliveries are often baffling and over-the-top.

It might just be the goodwill of the para-movie context of so many friends (especially Brian) embracing Troll 2 with open arms and hearts — but there’s something magical about actually watching this movie. You can’t go more than a scene, sometimes more than a shot, without finding something genuinely hilarious and unexpected. Some of these scenes are so crookedly inventive, it feels like a modern art deconstruction and reassembly of the basic matter of horror movies. Or maybe it’s more like one of these scenarios where a sentence is passed through Google Translate back and forth a bunch of times until you almost can’t recognize the sentence, but you still sort of can: that’s the relationship Troll 2 has with horror movies.

Unquestionably, I would rather watch and rewatch this than the majority of most technically-“better” movies. So, I ask again: Are they even, then, better movies in my eyes?

Asking if Troll 2 is “good” is like trying to divide by 0. There’s no correct outcome. All answers to the question are simultaneously possible but also invalid. So while part of me wants to slap top marks on this just for the anarchic hell of it and to honor the movie’s “I have no idea what is happening or what might happen next” giddiness, I’ll instead exhibit just a hair of restraint and land a couple steps south of the top “Tour de Good” tier.

Recommended reading: Brian’s review from when he ranked it his #11 favorite movie.

Update (Jan 2023):

I watched Troll 2 again and I stand by everything in this review, but I also want to point readers to my expanded thoughts on “so bad it’s good” movie-watching in my George of the Jungle 2 review: I basically don’t believe in it, or, maybe, I do, but I view it as unironically good, just maybe not in conventional or intended ways.

If you’re a guest who happened to click on this as the oldest review on the site: Welcome. I learned an important lesson from this film about hosting visitors: “Do you see this writing? Do you know what it means? Hospitality. And you can’t piss on hospitality!”

Is It Good?

Very Good (6/8)

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