In the current cult of so-bad-they’re-good movie lovers, there are two distinct camps. One holds The Room as the pinnacle of the failure pyramid, while the other worships Troll 2. Let’s talk about the latter, shall we?
Tagline: The original boogeyman is back
More Accurate Tagline: The original boogeyman called in sick, so we dressed some midgets in sacks
Guilty Party: Director and co-writer Claudio Fragasso thought he was making a horror film that crossed the family dynamics of Poltergeist with the survival sensibilities of Night of the Living Dead and the food phobias of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He did not succeed.
Synopsis: Here’s the thing: when you ask a creepy-ass ghost that somehow escaped hell for a bedtime story, don’t be shocked if it’s a little dark. Little Joshua (Michael Stephenson) is learning this as his dead Grandpa Seth (Robert Ormsby) tells him a harrowing tale of a young man’s flight from, subsequent transformation into green goop and consumption by the ferociously vegetarian goblins.
You’re probably brimming with questions right about now. Please hold them until the end.
Joshua’s family, the Waitses, consisting of Michael (George Hardy), the blustery Southern dad, Diana (Margo Prey), the spacey mom, Holly (Connie McFarland), the iron-pumping teenage daughter and of course the terrifying revenant Grandpa Seth, is trading houses with some rednecks for a month. This sounds like a fabulous idea. Michael is really excited about this vacation because he’ll get to live as a “peasant and a farmer,” like they did a hundred years ago. I guess Michael’s hobbies include pooping outdoors and dying of polio.
This is really important: The town is called “Nilbog.” You know, rather than the more intuitive “2 Llort.”
Meanwhile, Holly’s probably gay boyfriend Elliott is joining her in Nilbog for some outdoor sex. She’s very clear that he’s not to bring his three friends. Apparently he brings them everywhere and she’s had it with that. She’s careful to point out that she doesn’t believe in group sex. It’s unclear if this means she’s against it, or if she thinks it’s something people made up just to mess with her. Elliott promises to leave the sausage fest at home, but the thought of living one day without a penis roughly bruising his large colon is too horrible, so he drags his friends Arnold, Brent and Drew to Nilbog. Just to be clear, I’m not making up the homoeroticism. Later on, Brent and Elliott are shown sleeping in the same bed, definitely shirtless, possibly totally naked. In the course of the film, Elliott never exits the RV completely dressed.
The drive up with the Waitses is incredibly awkward. It includes a fight between Michael and Holly, Diana imploring Joshua to “sing that song [she] likes” (which turns out to be “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and not “Darling Nikki” like I thought), and Joshua getting out of the car to have a heart-to-heart with a drifter.
Nilbog has two things in abundance: taciturn hillbillies and green food. Everyone in town is a vegetarian, with even religious sermons focused on what smelly bowel movements eating meat can give you (no, seriously, this happens). The general store stocks only unrefrigerated milk, which they give away for free. Recognizable food is generally coated with thick green frosting, because nothing says yummy like frosted corn on the cob.
One by one, Elliott’s friends succumb to the temptations of Nilbog. First Arnold falls into the clutches of local weirdo Creedence Leanore Gielgud (more on her later) and gets turned into a half-man half-tree, a fate that seems to annoy him more than anything else. Then Drew gets fed a milkshake made from Arnold and turned to goblin food. It’s possible Brent makes it out alive, but no one really cares.
Grandpa Seth does what he can to warn the Waitses to get the hell out of Dodge, mostly reiterating that Nilbog is the Kingom of Goblins, something Joshua treats as a revelation when he figures out that Nilbog is goblin backwards. Joshua also figures out that what I took to be a scar is actually supposed to be a clover-shaped mole. I just assumed the whole town was in the advanced stages of syphilis.
The townsfolk throw a party for the Waitses. Joshua and Grandpa Seth decide to turn it into a cocktail party. A Molotov cocktail party. After the preacher burns to death, he takes on his true form. That of a goblin! The family flees inside and tries to summon Grandpa Seth with the help of a séance, figuring that if Satanism got them into this problem, by god, Satanism would get them the hell out!
This leads to a showdown between Joshua and Creedence, who is revealed to be the goblin queen. Things look grim for Joshua until he opens the magic knapsack Grandpa Seth conveniently gave him about five minutes before and removes… a double-decker bologna sandwich. Creedence implores Joshua to think about the cholesterol, but Joshua chows down, which the goblins react to like Dracula to a cross (or, for the modern reader, Edward Cullen to a centerfold).
The rest of the Waitses show up and somehow defeat the goblins by groping a magic stone. Turns out this wasn’t enough, because in the surprise twist ending, the goblins are waiting for the Waitses at home! They eat Diana, but they offer some to Joshua, because you can’t piss on hospitality. That joke will be funny at the end of this, I promise.
Life-Changing Subtext: Vegetarians want nothing more than to eat you. And have bowel movements that smell of fresh laundry and clean baby skin.
Defining Quote: I could write it for you, but no amount of purple prose could do Arnold’s bizarre delivery justice.
Standout Performance: Deborah Reed as Creedence Leanore Gielgud. Imagine a female John Lithgow minus the subtlety. She has two versions, a gray-haired woman with severe herpes, and a sexed-up siren with a thing for corn. Both are equally baffling.
I’d also like to single out one of the goblins. The costumes are uniformly horrible, but one of them is worse than the others. His face doesn’t move. He looks perpetually surprised to be there, but tetanus keeps his mouth in a toothy rictus. When his death scene rolls around, he mostly just stands there before suddenly collapsing. This displays peer pressure at its most destructive.
What’s Wrong: In a word? Everything. The acting barely qualifies as amateurish, the cannibal villains are vegetarians, the pacing is garbage and the special effects are the kind of special that wears a helmet and rides a half-sized bus.
First, the writers were non-native English speakers and the actors were forbidden from changing any of the awkward phrasing that popped up. So basically you have a bunch of American actors talking like foreigners and many of them expressing open contempt for the dialogue coming out of their mouths.
Second, there’s the music. Most of the score for this alleged horror film is peppy easy-listening New Wave, featuring synth-sax and a ballpark organ. The music doesn’t transfer with scenes, so when the film cuts back and forth between locations as it often does, the music will cut off mid-note.
And last, I’d like to discuss an extremely salient point. The bad guys are goblins. Not trolls. This film contains not a single fucking troll. As if to underline this fact, when Grandpa initially rambles on about goblins, the title flashes on the screen: Troll 2. Sometimes movies make fun of themselves better than anyone else can.
Flash of Competence: Alone amongst all of the films I have ever profiled, Troll 2 literally gets nothing right. I can’t even fall on my old crutch of “good production values,” since the film looks like it was made for a hundred bucks and used a cast of dentists and mental patients. That last part is totally true, by the way.
Best Scenes: While nothing in this movie qualifies as sane, there are three scenes that really raise the bar.
While Elliott, Drew and Brent watch something on television involving gorillas and jetpacks that officially looks like the most awesome thing ever put to film, Arnold decides to go out and see if he can finally convince himself that he’s straight. He wanders outside and immediately sees a pretty woman in ripped clothing with some green goo on her face. She looks like she was just raped by Gumby. Remembering what he learned about rape trauma, Arnold chases her down and tackles her. That’s when the goblins show up. Even though the make up is bad, these are supposed to be inhuman creatures, but Arnold treats them as though they’re actually dwarves in Halloween costumes. Well, the goblins are not prepared to take that shit, and chase Arnold to Creedence’s house. Creedence offers them some smoking green liquid, which she claims is medicine. Because Arnold is retarded and the girl has recently suffered head trauma, they both drink it. She turns into green goop first, which is when Arnold delivers his famous line.
When Grandpa Seth squares off with the preacher, things get a little odd. The preacher uses his goblin magic to send Grandpa Seth back to hell. Back. This means Grandpa Seth went to hell, I’m guessing for touching Joshua and maybe arson.
Creedence decides she wants to seduce Brent, so she does so with the most potent weapon any lissome succubus has at her disposal: corn. She brandishes a corncob at Brent, and he seems to be okay with this. Me, I’d be a little concerned about where that corncob was going. Anyway, instead of using it to redefine the term “cornhole,” they use it sort of like a kiss buffer. That’s when the popcorn starts flying in from every angle. Brent survives this encounter and is last seen waking up in the RV, covered in popcorn.
Transcendent Moment: When the Waitses arrive at their exchange house, they find that the weird rednecks have laid out a meal for them. Not an appetizing meal, mind. Everything is covered in little strips of green frosting. The Waitses get ready to chow down when Joshua hears a knock at the window.
It’s the ghost of hellbound Grandpa Seth! He doesn’t want them to eat the food and demands that Joshua figure out a way to stop them. Thinking quickly, Joshua does the most logical thing he can think of.
He pisses all over the food.
Needless to say, it works. Michael’s a little peeved, carrying Joshua upstairs to yell at him. At this point, Michael decides the scene isn’t quite bizarre enough. First he points out that Joshua can’t piss on hospitality. No offense there, Mike, but Joshua literally just proved you wrong. Then Michael starts fiddling with his belt, and the assumption is that he’ll whip Joshua with it. Nope! He’s tightening it, so he “doesn’t feel hunger pains.” I don’t think that’s how that works.
I still back The Room as the pinnacle of terrible films, but Troll 2 is a worthy second best.