Movie Review - 'Best Worst Movie' - So Bad It's Infamously Good Twenty years ago, Michael Stephenson made his movie debut -- in Troll 2, a film widely praised as the worst of all time. Now, in the documentary Best Worst Movie, he chronicles what it's like to be involved in a cult hit so excruciatingly awful that it becomes a surprise smash.
NPR logo

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

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A 'Best Worst Movie,' So Bad It's Infamously Good



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

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris, and we're going to talk movies now. In a moment, we'll have a report from the Cannes Film Festival but first, a new documentary that sets its sights a little lower.

(Soundbite of screaming)

NORRIS: Our critic Bob Mondello reviews a film called "Best Worst Movie."

BOB MONDELLO: Think about the worst film you've ever seen: "Plan 9 From Outer Space," "Ishtar," "Howard the Duck," "The Hottie and the Nottie" -all terrible in their own ways - still, none of them inspired a documentary.

(Soundbite of film)

Mr. MICHAEL PAUL STEPHENSON (Actor): (As character) What are you going to do to me, Daddy?

Dr. GEORGE HARDY (Actor): (As character) Tightening my belt by one loop so I don't feel hunger pains.

Mr. STEPHENSON: OK, pause it, rewind, and right there.

MONDELLO: The film freezes on an 11-year-old who's trying to look alarmed.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. STEPHENSON: That's me, Michael Paul Stephenson, and 18 years ago, I got the lead role in my first movie.

(Soundbite of film, "Troll 2")

Mr. STEPHENSON: (As character) Nilbog, it's goblin spelled backwards.

Mr. STEPHENSON: At that time, the movie was titled "Goblin." It was directed by...

MONDELLO: "Goblin," with its vegetarian monsters who must turn victims into plants to eat them, was never released in theaters. And when Stephenson became a filmmaker himself, he might just have joined his fellow actors in leaving it off his resume.

George Hardy, the real-life dentist who played the dad, stopped flashing his pearly whites at movie cameras entirely. But then Hardy's patients started saying they'd seen him on a video called "Troll 2" - "Goblin" re-titled - and then it showed up on TV.

(Soundbite of film, "Troll 2")

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (As character) He's still seeing Grandpa Seth.

Dr. HARDY: (As character) When I was a kid, I had an imaginary playmate, too.

Unidentified Woman #1: (As character) But it wasn't your dead grandfather.

Dr. HARDY: When it first started showing up on HBO and all that, people would call me from all over the place, and - George, you're on TV! I'd just go, I know, I know. Just stop watching it right now. It gets worse.

MONDELLO: That was all before he discovered his horror movie had developed a cult following - people throwing "Troll 2" parties, big ones. A piece in The New York Times led Hardy and Stephenson to a Manhattan screening, where they found a mob scene.

Unidentified Man #1: I came L.A.

Unidentified Man #2: Cape Cod.

Unidentified Man #3: New Jersey.

Unidentified Man #4: Connecticut.

Unidentified Man #5: This guy right here came all the way from North Carolina.

Unidentified Man #6: We would have walked here for this, from West Virginia.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Dr. HARDY: The energy inside that place was just amazing.

Unidentified Man #7: "Troll 2" is the best movie in the world - the world.

MONDELLO: Greeted by this bunch as if they were a latter-day De Niro and Scorsese, the dentist and documentarian revel in the celebrity-ness of it all for a while, a glow that fades as they delve deeper: contacting "Troll 2's" Italian director, who is hurt that the audience is laughing at his movie: and some former co-stars, one of whom seems to have retreated not just from acting but from the world entirely. The price of non-fame, maybe?

At a British horror convention where no one's asking for his autograph, even the unfailingly cheery dentist displays a sour side.

Dr. HARDY: There's plenty of gingivitis around here. Have you noticed that? Tons of gingivitis, really bad. I guarantee you, only about 5 percent of these people floss their teeth on a daily basis. I'm just sick of this place. Let's get out of here.

MONDELLO: Celebrity is tough to let go of, even when you know it's undeserved. "Best Worst Movie" doesn't plumb that thought very deeply -doesn't do anything very deeply, really, 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.

I'm Bob Mondello.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.