Best Worst Movie (2009) / Documentary
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for innuendo, gore, disturbing images, and language
Running time: 95 min.
Cast: George Hardy, Michael Paul Stephenson, Margo Prey, Connie Young, Robert Ornsby, Jason Wright, Darren Ewing, Jason Steadman, Gary Carlson
Director: Michael Paul Stephenson
Review published January 30, 2011
Just as some movies take a generation to appreciate them for how good they are, there are some movies so bad, that it takes a while for them to be appreciated as well. Usually this is because very few people see the actual atrocious movie in question, but once they do, they have to let their friends watch the atrocity -- and then those friends tell their friends. Ultimately, it's when meeting others from different parts of the country that shared in that same phenomenon do you they realize that, indeed, a cult movie is born. That's precisely what has happened with Troll 2, a movie so revered for being bad that revival theaters regularly sell out. Best Worst Movie is a celebration of this cinematic abomination, nearly twenty years later, made by insiders for fans clamoring for more.
Created and directed by the child star of Troll 2, Michael Paul Stephenson, Best Worst plays like a combination of a fanboy phenomenon film and a "Where Are They Now?" cast & crew reunion show. For those familiar with the film, particularly those who enjoy its ineptitude, it should bring forth a wealth of smiles, and more than a number of solid guffaws.
As a film meant for fans, Best Worst Movie faithfully captures the essence of what makes Troll 2 the cult film that it is, as told by the fans themselves. The stars of the film are genuinely taken by surprise at the outpouring of affection from the fans, turning what must have been one of the more embarrassing events in their lives into one they can smile and have a good time reminiscing about. No one embraces his newfound minor celebrity status more than George Hardy, who played the father in Troll 2. He's established as a man who chose acting because he spent a lifetime chasing the spotlight, and only 20 years later, after establishing himself as a dentist in his home state of Alabama, does he realize that the spotlight is now chasing him. His basking in the glow of cult fame clearly gets to his head, as he soaks in the adulation, and even goes so far as to try to spread the word about his film's showings to people who obviously would be sickened or appalled by such a terribly made, and somewhat gory, horror film. He recites lines from the film to those who've never seen it as if they were comedy gold outside of their context. His patients and people in his town humor him greatly, but one can see in their eyes they have no interest, but his indefatigable exuberance is enough to win them over.
Fortuitous for the shyer Stephenson to have Hardy along for the ride, as the two travel across the country to visit film showings with Q&A cast sessions, science fiction/fantasy conventions (where they discover how the film's appeal hasn't reached to the mainstream), visiting the other co-stars of the film to gather their thoughts on the process, talk to the clearly deranged Claudio Fragasso (the Italian director who insists he made a great film and their derisive laughter shows how stupid people are), and also visit the Utah town and the home where the 1990 film had been set.
While it is a pleasure to see these average people find their fifteen minutes of fame, some of the stories are a bit sad. Take for instance the case of the delusional Margo Prey, who plays the mother in the original film, who spends her days hoping to still be discovered, thinking she's starred in this generation's equivalent of Casablanca, while living as a recluse taking care of her misanthropic mother, with shades of Mommie Dearest, in a town they both despise. Or Robert Ornsby, who plays Grandpa Seth, discuss his lack of progeny, and how his life has basically been mostly a waste. Notably missing is Deborah Reed, who played the main villainess, Creedence the Goblin Queen. Stephenson claims he had already let the movie run its course by the time he got to her and it would have pulled away from the impetus shoehorning her scenes in. However, her lack of inclusion is still notable given how important she is to the film and its cult status through her inspired performance (which many enjoy for how wildly over-the-top she goes). Note: Reed does make an appearance in the DVD extras. and even has her own site embracing all things Creedence.
From a documentary quality standpoint, it's not very investigative, revelatory, or put together with any amount of insight into films as a whole. Think of it as a love letter from an actor to the fans who love something he was associated with -- a companion piece meant to give more sustenance to a cult base hungry for more. Like the goblins in the film, it takes a certain chemistry to turn a meaty horror film into the kind of mindless gelatin for those with particular tastes to consume. Best Worst Movie is the dessert to their full-course meal of bad taste.
©2011 Vince Leo