Written & Directed by Michael Stephenson, starring George Hardy, Claudio Fragasso, Connie Young and Margo Prey.
In 1999 there was no such thing the classic TV series “Galaxy Quest;” the show was invented so that the endearingly hilarious film GALAXY QUEST could exist. Had TROLL 2 not existed, it would have been worth inventing, if only to supply the back-story to BEST WORST MOVIE. TROLL 2 is a goofy fun horror film shot in Utah in 1989 but not released until 1992. The documentary BEST WORST MOVIE examines the making of, vanishing of, and unexpected resurgence of TROLL 2. The film’s voyage to cult status began when HBO aired it in 1993. Possibly the most slowly contagious viral video ever, TROLL 2 spent the next 10+ years growing a following of fans that held parties to screen it on worn VHS copies.
Word of these parties reached Michael Stephenson, who as a child appeared in TROLL 2 as Joshua Waits. Stephenson’s curiosity became two-fold: 1) who were these people who had embraced a movie that was regarded as preferably forgotten even by some of it’s cast and 2) what had become of that cast? BEST WORST MOVIE is Stephenson’s document of his exploration of both these questions. His very fortunate first move was to enlist George Hardy, who had played his father Michael Waits, to help him track down the rest of the TROLL 2 cast. George Hardy is a man too friendly, too funny, too decent, too all-around positive for fiction. If BEST WORST MOVIE were a fictitious lampoon of cult status like GALAXY QUEST, some development exec dork in a suit would have insisted Mr. Hardy be a secret alcoholic with a terrible mystery in his past to give him some lazy version of “depth.” But this is real life, and in real life and in BEST WORST MOVIE, even George Hardy’s ex-wife has only good things to say about him. The great joy of BEST WORST MOVIE is watching the semi father and son team of Stephenson and Hardy retrace their family tree. What I have given you here is prologue, plus a hint of who the principle characters are now — I am reluctant to say any more, other than that their journey is funny, sad and always intriguing. It is a trip worth taking for anyone who has ever opposed a chorus of disapproval to champion a movie, actor, singer, song, painter, building or any other artist or work of art.
With the exception of TROLL 2’s director Claudio Fragasso, everyone in Stephenson’s cast and crew family seems astounded by the recent success of TROLL 2. I read one review of BEST WORST MOVIE that made the interesting point that some ironic hipster audiences these days find it easier to laugh at a movie than to truly love it. I agree that this may account for some of the adoration Stephenson and Hardy experience in midnight TROLL 2 screenings across the country, but I think there is something else. TROLL 2 comes from an absurd premise, as does John Carl Buechler’s 1986 film TROLL, but it is a wildly inventive completely off the wall premise. When you watch either of these films, you may not like them, but you sure as hell won’t find yourself saying “I’ve already seen this in That Movie,” or “This is such a rip-off of Fill In The Blank!” No friends, the TROLL films are an unmistakably distinct experience. I submit that this is what GOBLIN-shirt wearing fans line up for; they’d rather see a low budget ridiculously inventive green-goop splatter-fest than a bloated big studio action movie without a prayer for something unique because it was made by the same committee formula as every other “summer tent-pole event” movie.
It could also be suggested that BEST WORST MOVIE benefits heavily from the slowly creeping growth of the ranks of TROLL 2 fans. Some more recent cult films like THE BIG LEBOWSKI and DONNIE DARKO found their core audience so quickly after their under-performing initial theatrical release that there was no time to sit back and take stock of what was reeling in these die-hard fans. As unusual as was the story of TROLL 2, so too is the singular experience at the heart of BEST WORST MOVIE, of this cast and their nearly generational transition with their fans. At the end of this year, I expect there will be no $100M high-octane movie hero whose quest I will have enjoyed rooting for as much as I did Mark and George’s.