Thursday 27 May 2010

Obscurity Files #8 - Troll & Troll 2

SLACKER Obscurity Files aims to put the spotlight onto a series of films that time and audiences have otherwise forgotten. With Sex and the City 2 out in cinemas this weekend, we thought it might be good time to look at that other magnum opus double bill of Troll and Troll 2.

More after the jump...

The first Troll film is a gentle horror set in an apartment block that has some dark secrets. The Potter family moves into the building only to find that little Wendy's not quite herself anymore, losing her ball in the basement and accidentally getting possessed by one of the trolls. She's having tantrums, she's picking on her big brother, real devilish stuff. Her older brother makes friends with the creepy old lady upstairs, and maybe she can offer some answers to all the strange goings-on in the building.
Wendy seems to have took on the dual personality of a little girl and an evil little troll, and it's not long before she decides to visit the neighbours, turning them all into odd plant life and little creatures starting with their gigolo upstairs neighbour (played by Sonny Bono).

The biggest curiosity factor from this film is the name of its main character, Harry Potter. Predating JK Rowling's book by about a decade, she's had to answer some odd questions about whether she took inspiration from this obscure little movie. For Seinfeld fans it's also the film debut of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, showing her transform into a glamourous nymph by the troll.

When Harry realises he needs to help Wendy now or she may be lost forever, crazy old Eunice from upstairs tells him how to help her. It turns out Eunice is a witch, and there's a massive turf war going on between her and a Troll wizard named Torok. Can they team up and stop Torok before the whole apartment block turns into a new home for the fairy kingdom?

The main problem TROLL has is that it's not remotely scary, and I'm not just saying that from my 21st Century viewpoint. The make-up on the main Troll is quite effective, so it's a shame that all the others look crap; I can't imagine anyone ever being frightened by these little creatures. Fantastic advances have been made in make-up and creature design since 1986 but even so, these Trolls are nothing more than cute. Take this next scene which gives you a good look at the quality of the puppets.

Maybe I'm getting away from the point of the movie. It's meant to be a cheap fantasy horror with a few laughs, and it certainly isn't more than that. It's a slight film that involves magic rings, elves and witches, kind of like Batteries Not Included but with more short people.

There's been talk by director John Carl Buechler of a remake of this film, and that's surprising as I'm pretty certain this would have been completely forgotten about if it wasn't for a couple of factors; the main character being called Harry Potter Jr, and the fact it was followed up with...

The Waits family decide to go on a family trip to the small town of Nilbog to get back to their roots. There's mum, dad, big sister Holly and little Joshua. Oh, and Joshua's haunted by the spirit of his dead grandfather Seth who wants to come too. Unfortunately for the Waits family Nilbog is now populated by a bunch of Goblins (not trolls) that have poisoned all the food, turning the residents into vegetable goop for them to eat. When Grandpa Seth warns his grandson of this diabolical scheme it's up to Joshua to make sure the family don't eat the food, but how will he stop them?

Baring absolutely no resemblance to the original, Troll 2 arrived in 1990, and is now commonly referred to as one of the worst films ever made. There's some horrendous acting, some terrible effects work and a pretty laughable plot, but if it's played for laughs it has more hits than misses. There's so many moments of awfulness beyond belief you can't help but enjoy the film for all its low budget glory. Even the name of the vacation town. Nilbog? You get it? It's GOBLIN backwards! That would have been the first sign of potential trouble to me. It takes them half the film to notice it.

Again, like the first Troll film, a lot of its charm is in it's cheap crappiness. They've not bothered to hire the best actors for the parts, seemingly picking people off the street who wanted to be in a movie. I could show you a clip of the big sister Holly that would prove how bad an actress she was, but I think this clip says so much more.

Seriously, it's hypnotic isn't it? To be fair, Michael Stephenson as Joshua is a perfectly fine child actor who holds the scenes together well, but everyone around him doesn't seem to know how to speak properly. The mother seems to be getting her lines fed into her ear via a tin can, and there's plenty of other gems such as this fantastic line reading from one of the supporting cast.

As you may have noticed from that clip, the effects are quite terrible, but in that awesomely late 80's way. All the Goblin faces are clearly dodgy latex masks, not even approaching the quality of the shoddy effects from the first film. Because the Goblins aren't able to speak without looking awful, a lot of screen time is given to a crazy old witch who rules over the Goblins. She wants to control the minds of the townspeople to turn them into food for the Goblins to eat. Simple really. Of course the whole idea of mind control has been used before, but in not quite the same way. After a quick beauty spell the lengths this crazy witch will go to make people eat her food is commendable.

With the family holed in at the farm, the local residents surround them, ready to force them to eat. What else can the Waits do but hold a makeshift seance? This unwittingly unleashes all the goblins into the house, and sends little Joshua into an alternate universe where he and his Grandfather can destroy the source of the goblin's power.

This is one of those occurrences like Cabin Fever 2 and CHUD 2 where the sequel has absolutely no relation to the original. Why call a film about goblins 'Troll 2' unless you're just hoping to cash in on an obviously niche audience? Apparently this was called Goblin during production, and the decision to relate it to the first Troll film was made just before release. The loosely related films were popular enough to merit Troll 3, which again had only a slight resemblance to both movies and once again had no trolls in it.

Troll 2 is a very charming film that doesn't apologise for its poor quality. It has the unfortunate distinction of have a 00% score on Rotten Tomatoes, opposed to the 33% score the original has. I would definitely say that Troll 2 is the more enjoyable film of the two, but that's kind of like deciding between Date Movie and Epic Movie.

Save Troll from obscurity? No

Save Troll 2 from obscurity? Yes

And if you like the sound of Troll 2, don't forget to check out this excellent documentary when it hits cinemas later this year.

1 comment:

  1. The trolls (sorry goblins) in troll 2 look like their masks have been bought in a fancy dress shop!