• Troll/Troll 2

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: November 17th, 2015.
    Director: John Carl Buechler/Claudio Fragasso
    Cast: Brad Hall, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Moriarty, Phil Fondacaro /Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey
    Year: 1986/1990
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    The Movie:

    Scream Factory brings cult classics Troll and Troll 2 to Blu-ray – whether you like it or not!


    The first film, directed by John Carl Buechler introduces us to the Potter family – Harry Sr. (Michael Moriarty), his wife Anne (Shelley Hack), his son Harry Jr. (Noah Hathaway) and their young daughter Wendy Anne (Jenny Beck) – who have just moved into a new apartment in the lovely city of San Francisco.

    While the rest of the family are busy unpacking, little Wendy wanders off into the laundry room and makes the acquaintance of a troll named Torok (Phil Fondacaro) who promptly busts out his magic ring and possesses the poor little girl. Why? So that he can use her body to setting into motion his bizarre plan to turn the apartment building and all who live within it into... other trolls. He basically wants to turn the building into troll central. Wendy’s parents are a bit oblivious to their daughter’s odd behavior but good old Harry Jr. is a bit more perceptive. Where Harry Sr. and Anne figure Wendy is just stressing out from the move, Harry Jr. knows better. He soon realizes that something is wrong with Wendy and to save her he enlists the aid of Eunice St. Clair (June Lockhart), a witch that lives in one of the other apartments.

    Eunice knows more about Torok than anyone realizes – she was once involved with him and knows how and why he was turned from a dark wizard into a hideous troll… but will she and Harry Potter Jr. be able to stop him before it’s too late?

    The cast are amusing enough here. It’s odd seeing Moriarty pop up as the dad in this one but he’s fun in the part and instantly recognizable. Shelley Hack, of Charlie’s Angels fame, is also fine here but more action revolves around the kids and the troll. Noah Hathaway, probably better known for playing Boxey on Battlestar Galactica or Atreyu in The Neverending Story, is decent enough while Jenny Beck does the little girl lost things reasonably well and counters that aspect of her character with some amusing batty scenes once she’s been taken over. Phil Fondacaro is pretty great as the troll/evil wizard guy though, and he gets quite a bit of screen time allowing him to make the most of it. It’s also worth mentioning that both Sonny Bono and a young Julia Louis-Dreyfuss appear in the movie, he as a cranky guy who doesn’t like kids and she as a sassy young woman who gets turned into some sort of forest nymph.

    The movie goes at a good pace and features some pretty cool effects and props. As the troll takes over and starts transforming the building and its inhabitants into various forest denizens the effects guys get to go pretty wild and it makes for interesting viewing. It’s never particularly scary, more of a bizarre dark fantasy than a horror movie, but it’s fun.

    Troll 2:

    Widely regarded by those who simply don't know any better as ‘the worst movie ever made' and recently the subject of a documentary entitled Best Worst Movie (made by the film's then child star, Michael Stephenson, Troll 2 is sort of in a league of its own. It's not at all unwatchably bad, in fact, it's pretty entertaining in its own completely nonsensical manner, but it seems to have been made without any care towards narrative, logic or for that matter, sense.

    The story begins when an old man named Grandpa Waits (Robert Ornsby) is telling his grandson, Joshua (the aforementioned Michael Stephenson) a bed time story about a group of nasty goblins (not trolls) who force their human prey to eat strange green slime that turns them into plants. You see, these goblins are vegetarian, so if they're going to eat people as good goblins should, they have to turn them into vegetables first? Okay. At any rate, a few minutes later Joshua's mother comes in and grandpa disappears - was Joshua talking to his ghost? It seems that way.

    With that out of the way, we follow Joshua, his teenage sister Holly (Connie McFarland) and his parents (George Hardy and Margo Prey) as they drive out to the small town of NILBOG (get it?) where they are going to house swap with another family so that they can live as farmers did decades ago. Sounds like the ideal vacation, right? Of course, as they settle in to their new temporary digs, they soon learn the hard way that the good people of Nilbog are, shock of all shocks, goblins and that there's something wrong with the green slimy food that's been left out for them by their hosts. Joshua is the only one who seems concerned by any of this, however, until Connie's boyfriend and some of his pals show up in an RV and run into Creedence Leonore Gielgud (Deborah Reed), a foxy goth librarian type who seems unusually obsessed with magic and Stonehenge and who uses a corncob to arouse one of the RV riding teenage boys. It just gets weirder and goofier from there...

    Performed with straight faces all around by a cast of the most amazingly wooden actors you're ever likely to see (Reed being the exception - she goes in the opposite direction and cant' seem to turn things down to a normal level), Troll 2 is just a ninety minute collage of ‘what the fuck where they thinking' set pieces and horrible acting. At the same time, it's got this really sort of perverse fairy tale vibe to it that goes a long way towards, if nothing else, making it a wholly unique production. The whole movie is just.... off. Wrong even. There's something completely and entirely incorrect about this film and while, yes, it is a lot of fun in every possible wrong way you can imagine, it's such a complete and utter crap fest that it can be very tough to swallow without the aid of... I dunno. Whatever substance you care to abuse. Not that we'd endorse such extracurricular activities around these parts but for real, it's like this movie was written by a pair of acid heads with a modest effects budget trying to work out some kinky childhood issues.

    Periodically the film is quite well shot and while the acting is consistently awful, the movie looks kind of neat in its own oddball way. It's not The Virgin Spring but it's got a bit of atmosphere here and there and there are moments where someone behind the camera put down the bong long enough to get a good shot here and there. That said, none of the movie makes any sense. There's no purpose to any of this, it doesn't go anywhere, and when it wraps up, well, we're not necessarily any more clued in as to why things happened than when the movie started. That said, you really should see it, if only to say you have and to make up your own mind about the film and its legacy.


    Troll and Troll 2 both look pretty good in these AVC encoded 1.85.1 1080p high definition widescreen transfers than most probably expected them to. Detail is surprisingly good as is color reproduction and you'll be able to pick out all the detail in the odd costumes and sets used throughout the films. Black levels aren't perfect, but they're definitely good and while shadow detail can waver a bit from scene to scene, overall it's not half bad at all. Skin tones generally look nice and natural and there isn't much in the way of edge enhancement, noise reduction or compression artifacting to note (although both features are included on the same disc, it’s a BD50). While there is a bit of mild print damage from time to time, most won't be bothered by it, it’s pretty minor stuff.

    Audio options are offered, for both features, in English language DTS-HD 2.0 with removable subtitles provided in English only. Quality here is quite good. The instrumental music that opens the first film, for example, is crisp and clear and the strings used in the music sound great. Balance is fine throughout, dialogue is easy to understand for both features and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to complain about.

    Extras for Troll are highlighted by a new featurette called, appropriately enough The Making Of Troll that is made up of interviews with director John Carl Buechler, producer Charles Band, writer Ed Naha, composer Richard Band, special effects artists John Vulich and Gino Crognale, visual effects artists Jim Aupperle, James Belhovek, Linda Drake, and Kevin Kutchaver. It clocks in at just over fifty-minutes in length and so it’s pretty comprehensive. Band talks about the VHS boom years and how that allowed him to bankroll things like this, how the dollar was strong and the Italian lira was weak (which made filming in Italy more affordable) and how he set up a studio over there. From there we hear about where the story ideas came from, casting the picture, the effects work featured in the picture, why Harry Potter is such a ridiculous character in the film, the design work required to bring the trolls to life and quite a bit more. This is really well put together and it’s pretty interesting stuff.

    Troll also gets a behind the scenes still gallery and a theatrical trailer.

    The main extra for Troll 2 is an audio commentary with actors George Hardy and Deborah Reed. They talk about their experiences working on the picture, how they’ve come to embrace the film’s legacy, shooting the film just outside of Salt Lake City, what it was like working with some of the different actors and actresses in the film and more. Reed talks about some of the specifics of having to get into character as the Troll Queen, the effects required for that, working with Fragasso and how it was fun for her to be on set as often as she was during the making of the movie. There are a few slow spots here and there and it covers a lot of the same ground as the Best Worst Movie documentary (more on that in a minute!) but it’s a decent look back at the history of this screwy cult classic.

    A theatrical trailer for Troll 2 is also included.

    It’s also absolutely worth noting that the first five thousand copies of this release come bundled with a DVD that includes the 2009 documentary Best Worst Movie. For those who haven’t seen this yet, it’s a feature length documentary about the enduring legacy of Troll 2 directed by the very same Michael Stephenson who starred in it as a child. Stephenson’s personal experience and coming to terms with the film’s legacy is a big part of what makes this work – once you star in a movie like this it doesn’t typically just disappear, it can haunt you – but this is more than just his story, in fact a lot of it is told through the POV of George Hardy ,the actor who played his father in the film. We learn what became of these guys after the movie was made, how Hardy sort of hid from it but later embraced it, their thoughts on the film’s cult status and much more. It is, quite frankly, a very charming look at cult film mania and the effects that it can have on those who played a part in making those films. A lot of the other players appear here too – Connie Young, Don Packard, Margot Prey not to mention director Claudio Fragasso and screenwriter wife Rossella Drudi (Fragasso’s wife), who seem to hold the film in much higher regard than anyone else who has ever seen it.

    There are actually some pretty cool extras included on this DVD as well, starting with a selection of extended interviews and deleted scenes shot with various participants in the documentary. There’s a lot of material here, roughly an hour’s worth, and while it’s not all solid gold much of it is quite interesting. There’s also an eighty minute filmmaker Q & A session with Stephenson and Hardy, hosted by Jeff Goldsmith that is quite interesting. On top of that we get a music video, a few trailers, some biographies for the people that made all of this happen, trailers and chapter stops.

    The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release of Troll/Troll 2 is pretty solid, presenting both movies in very nice shape with strong audio and a load of extras, highlighted by the inclusion of the excellent Best Worst Movie documentary. As to the films themselves, they’re both a lot of fun, if for very different reasons and cult film buffs of fans of oddball cinema in general should get a kick out of them, particularly when they’re packaged as well as they are here.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!