A 'Best Worst Movie,' So Bad It's Infamously Good

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A Utah screening of 'Troll 2'

Best Of The Worst: A sold-out screening of Troll 2 attracts the usual suspects — rowdy goblins — at a Salt Lake City theater. Magic Stone Productions hide caption

itoggle caption Magic Stone Productions

Heard On 'Weekend Edition Saturday'

Host Scott Simon interviews Troll 2 star George Hardy.

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Think about the worst film you've ever seen. Plan 9 From Outer Space? Ishtar? Howard the Duck or The Hottie and the Nottie? All terrible in their own ways.

Still, none of them inspired a documentary.

Troll 2 — which has nothing whatever to do with Troll, incidentally (there aren't even any trolls in it) — did inspire a documentary, made by Michael Stephenson, who played its 11-year-old juvenile lead some two decades ago. The experience briefly fueled his dreams of child stardom — until he saw the finished picture, then called Goblin, and the dreams died.

Goblin, with its cadre of vegetarian monsters turning victims into plants so they could eat them, was understandably never released in theaters. And when Stephenson became a filmmaker himself, he might simply have joined his fellow actors in leaving it off his resume.

Best Worst Movie

  • Director: Michael Stephenson
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

Not Rated

With: George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, Darren Ewing, Jason Steadman, Jason Wright

George Hardy, the real-life dentist who played Stephenson's dad, for instance, stopped flashing his pearly whites at movie cameras entirely. But then Hardy's patients started saying they'd seen him In a video called Troll 2.

And then people started calling him to say he was on TV.

"Just stop watching it right now," he'd tell them with a laugh. "It gets worse!"

But that, as Best Worst Movie details, was before the discovery that his embarrassing little horror movie has developed a cult of followers who find the film flat-out hilarious — fans throwing Troll 2 parties, beer-powered midnight screenings and such. A piece in The New York Times leads Hardy and Stephenson to a Manhattan screening, where they find a mob scene, as fans greet them with the fervor more mainstream crowds might reserve for De Niro and Scorsese.

A goblin at New York screening of 'Troll 2' i

In Manhattan, it would seem, goblins inhabit even the East Village. Magic Stone Productions hide caption

itoggle caption Magic Stone Productions
A goblin at New York screening of 'Troll 2'

In Manhattan, it would seem, goblins inhabit even the East Village.

Magic Stone Productions

For a while, the dentist and the documentarian revel in the celebrity-ness of it all — a glow that fades as they delve a little deeper. Contacting Troll 2's Italian director, they discover he doesn't get the joke; he's hurt that the audience is laughing at his movie. Among their former co-stars, meanwhile, are a guy who reveals that he got to the set every day on a day pass from a mental hospital, and a woman who has since retreated not just from acting but from the world entirely. The price of nonfame, maybe?

At a British horror convention they've traveled thousands of miles to attend — and at which no one seems to have heard of Troll 2 — even the unfailingly cheery dentist displays a sour side. Surveying a crowd that's pointedly not asking for his autograph, he notes, "There's plenty of gingivitis around here. Really bad. I guarantee you only about 5 percent of these people floss their teeth on a daily basis."

Celebrity's tough to let go of, apparently, even when you know it's undeserved. Best Worst Movie doesn't plumb that thought very deeply. It doesn't do anything very deeply, really — it's content to skate across the surface of the so-bad-it's-good phenomenon that gave it birth. The filmmakers are too close perhaps; probably don't want to kill the troll that laid the golden egg.



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