In 1989 an Italian production company filmed a low-budget horror film in Utah called Troll 2 (so named to capitalize on the mild success of Troll, though this one doesn't actually include any trolls), employing a group of unskilled actors, a nonsensical script, and a wealth of awful prosthetics. Overwhelmingly panned by critics and viewers, it was quickly forgotten until over a decade later it found a new audience on home video. Gradually a cult developed around the film, soon categorized as the worst ever by sites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, sparking Troll 2 viewing parties, backyard games, and homemade costumes. Michael Stephenson, who starred as the whiny little boy Joshua, now sets his camera on the cast and crew of the film, documenting their appearance at a series of large-scale screenings across the US and offering a sort of "Where Are They Now?".
Best Worst Movie does well to focus on the fans as well as the actors and filmmakers, giving an insightful look into the world of cult obsession and the hapless people who make this type of movie. Affable dentist George Hardy, who played the father, emerges as the hero of the piece, going through stages of embarrassment, acceptance, passion, and frustration with the film and its rabid underground popularity, and becoming our host of sorts. The director Claudio Fragasso, and his wife/screenwriter Rossella Drudi become something of a villainous and uncomfortable presence. Claudio seems completely ignorant of how bad his movie is, and doesn't understand the American fandom- why are they laughing at the parts that aren't meant to be funny? He believes strongly in his ability to make great films and stubbornly refutes any claims from the actors that the script was confusing and the direction even more so. It's kind of sad, but pretty humorous.
Taking a focus on the cult obsession behind a bad movie and the people who made it (as opposed to a true "making-of") is a cool approach for a documentary to take, and the result is a funny and fascinating film that to me is more entertaining than its actual subject.
I think Troll 2 was the last of the big "so bad they're good" movies I hadn't seen. It focuses on a suburban family, the Waits, who move to the rural town of Nilbog for a month as part of an exchange program. Mrs Waits' father recently died and her young son Joshua is still having trouble dealing with the death since he's constantly popping up as a ghost that only he can see. Turns out the town of Nilbog is populated by shape-shifting, vegetarian goblins who want to turn the Waits and their friends into plants so they can eat them. That's basically it.
This is indeed a really bad, really stupid movie. The acting is horrendous, nothing makes any sense, scenes begin and end with little attempt at transitions or flow, and the effects are utterly horrendous. And yeah, it's pretty funny, but honestly I don't think it's that funny. I don't need to show this to everyone I know or host an annual Troll 2 party. I imagine it'd be really fun to watch with an appreciative audience of course, but watching it by myself with now-raised expectations from the documentary, I have to say it isn't exactly the "best" worst movie. While a lot of scenes and ridiculous bits of dialogue had me laughing, other parts were just dull. A similar response happened when I watched The Room, and I'm guessing that it's either my predilection for cheesy sci-fi action in my bad movies, or that most of the people culting out over these movies haven't seen any other so-bad-they're-goods, so they don't know how much better it can get. Either way, Troll 2 is indeed a campy, awful, quotable, funny time, just not quite as great as the documentary would have you believe.
Also Deborah Reed is amazing in it and it's too bad she's not in the documentary for some reason.
As a movie: 1.5/5
As entertainment: 4/5