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'Troll 2' deemed the best worst movie in documentary

Michael Stephenson explores why the old horror movie has made a comeback of sorts.

October 31, 2009|Yvonne Villarreal

Its awfulness is nearly unmatched. Some have even declared it the worst movie of all time. For many, "Troll 2," the shameful 1990 horror movie, is the best worst movie.

Now there's a documentary to prove it. In "Best Worst Movie," director Michael Stephenson -- the child star of the undisputed cinematic disaster, which has a rating of 0% on the film critic website Rotten Tomatoes -- reunites with his former "Troll 2" costars and investigates the improbable rise of the film to a pop-culture touchstone.

"Up until four years ago, I wanted nothing -- nothing -- to do with 'Troll 2,' " says Stephenson. "Then, out of nowhere, I started getting these messages from kids all over the country on MySpace asking if I was the Michael Stephenson from 'Troll 2.' Some would send pictures from parties they'd throw. . . . I just stared at them and thought, 'Why would anyone do this? How can anyone like this film?' That's how it all started."

His documentary, shot over a three-year span, has been making its rounds on the festival circuit. It won the best nonfiction motion picture award at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain. And it took home the best documentary award from the Indianapolis International Film Festival. The film plays today at the AFI Film Festival in Hollywood.

"It was very cathartic making the film," the 31-year-old director says. "I've seen the positivity and the fun and the enjoyment that people are having around this awful, awful film."

"Troll 2," directed by Claudio Fragasso, centers on the Waits family as they vacation in a deserted town called Nilbog ("goblin" spelled backward); things go awry when they're pursued by small vegetarian goblins who turn people into plants before they devour them. Don't be confused, though. It's not a sequel to the 1986 Empire Pictures film "Troll," despite the title.

It was filmed in three weeks in a small town in Utah in 1989. Twenty years later, the ultra-low-budget horror film has been resurrected into a treasure -- much the way "The Room" and "Showgirls" have become cult favorites. In Chicago and New York, and even in Canada and Austria, fans savor every minute of the film; some travel to attend screenings, others host viewing parties.

The documentary includes fan testimonials and scenes from the horror flick, as well as a glimpse into the lives of the actors. At the center is George Hardy, the film's father figure, who's now a dentist in Alabama; he's touched and confused by the movie's status.

"I didn't want to simply focus on the pandemonium surrounding this horribly bad movie," Stephenson says. "I was most interested in having people get to know the cast who had been part of this cinematic car crash."

Hardy drills cavities by day and moonlights as a cult figure -- at screenings, he often reenacts the infamous scene in which he declares one should not urinate on hospitality (in a more colorful way, of course).

"I remember a patient of mine gave me the VHS," Hardy says. "I remember . . . thinking, 'Ugh, I can't watch this.' "

It wasn't until he attended a 2006 New York screening -- the first scene Stephenson filmed -- that Hardy saw the film's effect, as hundreds attended.

"The way people have embraced it . . . it speaks to the power of film -- good or bad."


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