Troll (1986) / Fantasy-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language and scary images
Running time: 82 min.
Cast: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Jenny Beck, Shelley Hack, June Lockhart, Sonny Bono, Phil Fondacaro, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brad Hall, Anne Lockhart, Gary Sandy
Cameo: Charles Band, John Carl Buechler, Frank Welker (voice)
Director: John Carl Buechler
Screenplay: John Carl Buechler
A typical family of four moves into a San Francisco apartment not knowing that it will soon be the point of entry for a nasty troll named Torok (Fondacaro, Bordello of Blood) to begin his mission to take over the building, and open a portal for his elfin brethren to possibly take over the human realm. His first act is to take over the body of the youngest member of the family, Wendy Anne (Beck, Tightrope), and the only one savvy enough to know she isn't who she says she is is her older brother, Harry Potter Jr. (Hathaway, The NeverEnding Story) -- yes, you read that right, a film about magic with a young boy character named Harry Potter, years before J.K. Rowling's work. On his side is a witch (June Lockhart, Meet Me in St. Louis) who has vowed to keep Torok from succeeding, but the troll is tenacious, and very wily, taking over the building one human at a time.
Troll is a low budget b-movie (a typical Charles Band (Puppet Master, Spellcaster) production) trying to capitalize on a wave of fantasy creature films that were popular among youths in the mid 1980s, of which the most notable example would be Gremlins, which this feature cribs from more than just a little bit. Given the limitations in its budget, I suppose it would be too much to ask that Torok and friends be as technically sophisticated as a Spielberg-produced creation, but if you're willing to overlook the obviousness of the puppet creatures, who all seem to be suffering from a chronic overabundance of mucus, you might be able to be modestly entertained by the campy attitude and mildly comic treatment.
Low expectations are a must, and a penchant for silly b-movies, but even if you come away disliking the film, there are some notable moments to amuse. Future congressman Sonny Bono (Airplane II, Hairspray) has a small role as a womanizing swinger tenant, future "Seinfeld" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Soul Man, Christmas Vacation) gets to prance around in a fairy scene, and the mother-daughter team of June and Anne Lockhart (Bionic Ever After, Daybreak) play the older-younger version of the benevolent witch. Phil Fondacaro has a dual role of playing the Troll's diminutive friend Malcolm, as well ass Torok himself. The attitude of the makers of the film is that they weren't trying to achieve anything serious, merely having fun with a schlocky premise and riding it for all its worth. It is a bad film, but knows it. Though the direction is stiff and the effects weak, Troll benefits by likeable actors and silly moments that you'll either laugh with or at, depending on how you view knowingly bad b-movies.
The only thing I'm left wondering at the end is who'd win in a fight -- Torok the Troll, Leprechaun, or Hoggle from Labyrinth? Once I'm able to tell the difference between them, I'll probably come closer to being able to figure the answer out.
-- Followed by a terrible in-name-only sequel, Troll 2 (1990).
©2007 Vince Leo