Best Worst Movie

Best Worst Movie

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Using a star rating system can be one of the most difficult things for a film critic. As a rule, readers love them, but it has to be said that in some cases they just don't work. This is because there's a difference between how good a film is, in simple technical terms, and how much fun it is. Sometimes it's the worst, most indescribably awful, incompetent films which are the most enjoyable to watch.

Troll 2 is such a film. Widely considered to be the worst ever made (though most critics would still accord that dubious honour to Plan 9 From Outer Space), it still enjoys an enormous cult following, with fans all over the world - in this documentary one soldier even boasts of introducing it to Iraq. But what happens to the stars of such films? How do they feel about being celebrated for their awful acting skills and inadvertent comedy? This film, made by the boy who was Troll 2's original star, gives us the chance to find out.

Copy picture

It's something of a cliche in the horror film world that, no matter how scary or gory the films may be, the people involved in making them are often among the loveliest one could ever hope to meet. That's certainly the case here. So we meet George Hardy, a cheerful middle-aged dentist who is loved by everybody in the small Alabama town where he lives and works, and we follow him as he undertakes a journey of discovery, attending his first ever Troll 2 public screening and facing the extraordinary experience of being mobbed by fans. Signing autographs clearly goes to his head, but he's a marvellously likeable guy, so it's easy to remain engaged throughout.

As the film progresses we meet more cast members - the young woman whose dreams of stardom were shattered when she read IMDB comments on her awful performance; the recluse who hides away from it all, looking after her ailing mother and protesting that everything is too complicated; the former mental hospital inmate who got day release to cameo as a deranged grocery store owner, and who describes his eventual reception by fans as the happiest moment of his life. These are the people who are usually written out of the Hollywood story, the one hit (or one disaster) wonders we never hear from again, and it's fascinating to see where life has taken them and how this curious brush with stardom has shaped their expectations of life.

Not everything here is rosy. George's neighbours are bemused by the whole thing and try hard to appreciate the film but, in so doing, don't really get it. At big conventions where few people have heard of Troll 2 his disappointment is palpable, and he's ultimately a small town guy, out of his depth among the goths and punks frequenting horror events. Yet in showing us these ups and downs, the documentary brings us closer to understanding the emotional charge involved in devoting oneself to such a project, and to appreciating the courage and resilience required to stick with that even when it becomes famous for being awful.

The result is a tremendously heartwarming film. It's not just for Troll 2 fans (though if you haven't seen that film you'll be left eager to do so); rather, it comments on the much wider culture surrounding the love of bad movies. As one actor explains, many films today seems as if they've been made to a formula, with no real vision. What makes a film like Troll 2 great is that it was clearly made with love and with absolute sincerity.

This is also an insight into the filmmaking process. The Italian director, who couldn't speak much English at the time of filming, clearly feels that his work deserves more respect and complains that the actors wouldn't take it seriously enough. They, in turn, reveal that none of them ever had a complete script, and talk about how, the more involved they became with the film, the less certain they were of what it was supposed to be about. In the end there were no trolls and the film had nothing whatsoever to do with 'Troll 1'. This is the story, then, of a happy accident - a serendipitous tale which illustrates how sometimes the very best things in life can come about in spite of good intentions.

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2009
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Documentary about Troll 2 - considered by many to be the worst film ever made.
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