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Best Worst Movie
Time Out New York Project: Issue #763, May 13–19, 2010
Dir. Michael Stephenson. 2009. N/R. 93mins. Documentary.
Bad-movie aficionados are surely aware of the crapsterpiece that is Troll 2, for a time the lowest-rated feature on IMDb. Even casual viewers are sure to have stumbled across a YouTube highlight reel or two—costar Darren Ewing’s “Oh, my God!” reaction to the ravenous, people-eating goblins (despite the title, there are no trolls in the movie) is about as good a cure for the moody blues as a deep-breath hit of nitrous oxide. In recent years, the film has become a cult sensation, with sold-out midnight screenings and passionate declarations of Troll 2 fandom coming from as far away as Austria. Not bad for an Italian-financed, Midwest-cast no-budgeter, and the film’s sort-of rehabilitation inspired one of its stars, Michael Stephenson (he plays the adolescent hero, Joshua Waits), to make this entertaining, if evasive, tribute documentary.
Like another of Troll 2’s cast members—the perpetually grinning dentist-actor George Hardy, who is oft-prompted to repeat his immortal catchphrase, “You can’t piss on hospitality!”—Best Worst Movie is all slap-happy superficiality. Any time Stephenson stumbles upon a disturbing moment, as when elderly costar Robert Ormsby talks about “fritter[ing] my life away,” he quickly moves on to something more lighthearted so as not to sour the fanboy-flattering proceedings with a harsh dose of reality. Stephenson is too close to it all; he’s never able to truly dig below the cult flick’s frenzy, to examine the very real pain of both the film’s makers and the audience that takes rabid, gleeful delight in their folly. This is more of an authorized road show tour, in which everyone’s edges are smoothed away while the phenomenon, unchecked and unexplored, swallows them whole.—Keith Uhlich