Saturday, August 20, 2005

Review: Troll 2 (1990)


Little Joshua Waits sure loves his Grandpa Seth. Grandpa Seth is wise, knows all about spooky things like Goblins, and stays up into the wee hours telling Joshua stories. Sweet, huh? Only problem is... GRANDPA SETH HAS BEEN DEAD FOR SIX MONTHS!!! (And that's not even the scary part.) Joshua's ghostly grandpa has been visiting him ever since his death, and it's starting to worry Joshua's mom Diana. She thinks it may not be a good sign that Joshua keeps having visions of dead people even after she took him to a psychiatrist, but for the moment she's got other fish to fry.

The whole family - Joshua, mother Diana, father Michael, and big sister Holly - is going on a month-long vacation to the quaint Midwestern town of Nilbog. They're in some sort of vacation exchange program in which they stay in a Nilbogese family's house and that family stays in the Waitses' place. On the way to Nilbog, Grandpa Seth appears to Joshua and gives him a dire warning to keep his family away from that evil place. Nilbog, as it turns out, is Goblin central. (It's also "Goblin" spelled backwards, but you probably already figured that out.)

Goblins are evil forest spirits who love nothing more than feeding strange, enchanted food to humans. The enchanted food turns people into green, globby, Jell-O-like mounds of plant matter which the Goblins then eat. Goblins are also shape-shifters who can make themselves look human to deceive unsuspecting tourists like the Waits family. The Goblins' leader is a wicked old witch named Creedence, who is obviously a 25-year old acting student in bad makeup.

Joshua's teenage sister Holly has a dorky boyfriend named Elliott, and Elliott and three of his dorky friends follow the Waitses down to Nilbog in a camper. Elliott's idiot friends quickly fall victim to Creedence and the Goblins (wasn't that the name of a '60s rock group?) and are dispatched in bizarre and nasty ways. Joshua manages to keep his family from eating any enchanted Goblin food, and soon enough his folks realize that their son isn't schizophrenic after all - Nilbog really IS a terrifying stronghold of the Goblin kingdom!

Thanks to Grandpa Seth's otherworldly help Joshua finds the big stone pillar from which the Goblins get their evil power. He and his family lay hands on the stone and use the "power of good" to cause Creedence and her evil Goblins to explode, shrieking in horrible agony as rivulets of chlorophyll dribble down their twisted faces. The Waits family return to the safety of their own house, but as you might expect the Goblins are waiting in the wings and Joshua has to witness his mother being eaten before the credits roll.


People, listen to what I say. There are bad movies, and there are bad movies. If you want to know what the essence of a truly bad movie is, I strongly recommend that you track down Troll 2. Surviving this film is an accomplishment on a par with swimming the English Channel or scaling Everest. It's the sort of achievement that should go on your resume.

There are bad movies like Hell Squad which just don't care about being good, but Troll 2 falls into the category of bad movies that actually try pretty hard and still get everything wrong. It wants to be a good movie, but nobody involved in its production seems to know what they're doing. It's as though they brought in a group of random people off the street and said, "okay - you direct, you write the script, you do the special effects..."

The acting isn't exactly a strong point either. In general the actors either stumble through their lines like they're reading them for the first time or they over-emote to the point where every sentence is spoken as though it were the most important string of words ever uttered. The extras who portray the Nilbogian townsfolk are an unnerving bunch - sort of like a Midwestern version of Gymkata's Village of the Damned. They appear to have been cast from local yokels and have a tendency to stand around and stare vacantly. Most of them are actually scarier as humans than they are in the Goblin masks.

Troll 2's Midwestern flavor permeates the entire film, and if you peel back the slimy horror-movie surface you will find that it's basically a rant against all the things that conservative Midwesterners find suspicious or evil. The cultural taboos that are proven dangerous include premarital sex, alcohol, witchcraft, homosexuality, and that most disturbing of liberal bugaboos, vegetarianism. That's right - the Goblins are vegetarians, and they often launch into disgusted tirades against the practice of meat-eating. At one point, Joshua even defends himself from Creedence with a bologna sandwich.

I have to admit that I found Creedence the Witch strangely attractive. When she calls on the power of the evil stone of death to remove her witch makeup and restore her youthful looks I actually thought she was pretty foxy - sort of like a low-rent Leslie Ann Warren. She also undertakes one of the most bizarre seductions I've ever seen. She finds one of Elliott's sexually-frustrated friends alone in his camper and brandishes an ear of corn at him like it's some sort of sex toy. She pushes him down on his bed and sticks the corn between their mouths. They start going after that ear of corn like a couple of starving hogs, then it explodes in a shower of popcorn which buries the young geek alive. It's like some ancient Iowan fertility rite.

The final scene of this movie freaked me out more than somewhat. In virtually any horror movie, once the villains are defeated and things are wrapping up, you naturally expect something scary to happen so the movie will end on an unsettling note. I was prepared for that. What got to me about this particular scene was the weird (and possibly unintentional) Freudian undertones. Joshua's mother eats a tainted Goblin apple and then goes upstairs to take a shower. When Joshua discovers the Goblins eating her remains, it's clear that her half-jellified body is naked. Seeing your mother naked is bad enough, but seeing your mother naked and half-jellified and being eaten by a pack of rabid Goblins is enough to scar anyone's psyche. I wanted to wash my brain after viewing that little cinematic nugget of joy.

Final Analysis

Troll 2 should be viewed only by those with crap-cinema training. It should not be viewed within an hour of eating, and should not be combined with alcohol (despite what you might hear about the Troll 2 drinking game). Side effects of Troll 2 may include dizziness, loss of appetite, dry mouth, vegetarianism, homosexuality, and schizophrenia. Consult your physician before viewing Troll 2.


At 4:38 AM, Blogger phip said...

This dreg delivers! A+++ recommended - will read again.

At 4:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fine treatment of a legendary bad movie. Keep it up!


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