Bad Example: Troll 2

by Jay Stringer

Troll 2 is something of a miracle; a film with not one single redeeming feature that is still watchable.

I wonder where we get the idea that a film can be “so bad that it’s good.” We have all said it, and on some level its true: watching a really bad film can be very entertaining.  I have explained before that I like to see what I can learn from a bad film, to see what choices do not work and why. But Troll 2 does not teach any lessons, other than ‘don’t do this.’ There is no sign of any acting, writing or directing, so why do I enjoy watching it so much?

I think it can only be the insanity of it all.

Let’s start with the title. There is not one single Troll in this entire film. Not a one. In addition, the title refers to a film that it has no relation to its predecessor – Troll was released in 1986 and is in no way connected to its ‘sequel.’ Imagine somebody making a film called E.T 2 which is not set in California and does not feature an alien.

The original title for the film was Goblin, which makes far more sense to the plot. To go even further they could have called it Crazy Rubber Masked Vegetarian Goblins. But Troll 2 sounds better.

I do not want to ruin this great film for you by revealing every plot detail, but I will give you a few little tasters. First off, we meet Joshua, a young boy who is visited by the ghost of his grandfather. You might wonder what touching moments of intimacy there would be if a long lost relative were to visit you from beyond the grave; nostalgia, jokes, encouragement, maybe a tearful reunion? Nope, his grandfather turns up to warn him about the Goblins. Goblins are evil, see, and they are everywhere. They trick humans into eating poisoned food, which in turn mutates the humans into vegetables. Why do this? Well, the Goblins are vegetarians, so they need to turn humans into veggies before they can eat them.

Wha-huh?

I have two questions here, and I know it is my own, silly fault for bringing logic to the table. Firstly, why not just eat any of the millions of plants or vegetables that populate the earth? Secondly, if they are that keen to eating humans, why not just stop being vegetarian?

Anyway, still with me so far? Dead grandfather and vegetarian goblins. Let’s just go with it.

There is also a sub-plot involving Joshua’s big sister and her boyfriend. She wants to have sex, but the boy keeps bringing his friends along. I am used to seeing horror films that deal with the frustration and alienation of being a teenager. It is a staple of the genre.  This is probably the only time though where a guy’s major issue is that he has too many friends and a girlfriend who wants to get naked with him.

The film movies along when the family goes on vacation to a town called Nilbog. If you are trying to avoid the goblins, it seems logical that the one place you want to go is the town named goblin. There’s that logic again, folks.

On the way, the dead grandfather appears again to warn the family. Credit where it is due; this is more useful than Obi-Wan Kenobi in Empire Strikes Back. Obi-Wan appears to Luke in Ghost form just after he has nearly been killed by a yeti-thing and tells him to go visit Yoda. If he really wanted to help, why did he not appear five minutes sooner and say to Luke, “don’t go that way, there’s a big yeti-thing that wants to eat you” ? So, let’s salute the dead grandfather, but not too much; his master plan to stop his family from eating the poisoned food is for Joshua to piss all over it. Literally. Would it not have been easier to hide it?

I will leave the rest of the plot for you to discover; there is a bundle of comedy death scenes, awful dialogue and pointless plot twists. A sandwich is used as a plot device -that is how much fun awaits you.

The acting is almost uniformly terrible. It is at a level where I feel cruel for mentioning it, because these people are so clearly not actors that I am almost tempted to give them a free pass based on effort. Almost, but not quite.

Spare a thought for Michael Stephenson, the actor who played Joshua. Lost amongst all the ham and cheese is a young actor who was not that bad. Given some direction and a decent script, he might have been able to turn into something better. He did not see the finished film until Christmas Day a couple of years later, when his family gathered round after dinner to watch the film. Imagine the horror they went through that day.

I’m not going to criticize the film’s effects, set design or costumes. All three were bad, but money does not go very far if you do not have any.  It is hard to see what they were trying to do with the film; if they set out to have a bit of fun, then why are they not making a comedy? If they set out to make a serious attempt at a horror film, why are they clearly making things up as they go?  A bad film can be made from a good script, but a good film cannot be made from a bad script. The film has no story arcs, no character progression and no sign of either cause or effect. If the main conflict in your story comes in the form of vegetarian goblins with a mad plan, then your story has a problem.

But you know what, despite the fact that Troll 2 is truly appalling, I still watch it.

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