Sunday 3 May 2009
Best Worst Movie
"If you're unhappy, just watch Troll 2".
Going into my first screening of "Best Worst Movie" (a film about what is widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made), I was a bit apprehensive. I love bad movies as much as the next person I suppose, but I don't quite revel in them. I had feared that the movie would focus on the fans of the film - those who can only laugh AT movies and those who have an ironic "isn't this great" viewpoint. Many of the fans of "Troll 2" indeed show up in the film, but there's an honest genuine love for "their" movie that they want to share with everyone. As well, it became apparent very quickly that "Best Worst Movie" is about the people behind it - an affectionate, sweet, sometimes sad and often times hysterically funny look at a group of people who had such great intentions...and failed miserably.
Note that I said my "first" screening of "Best Worst Movie". I went right out and caught it again the very next night.
Of course, it helped that this second viewing was a midnight screening at the Bloor Cinema - one of the very theatres that will sometimes screen this 1990 pseudo-horror film to packed houses and actually shows up in the documentary. Over the last few years, fans of "Troll 2" have grown in number and began to reach out, via the Internet, to those who were in the film. One of them was Michael Paul Stephenson, the 12 year old star of "Troll 2" and now, at 31, the director of "Best Worst Movie". As he became aware of the growing cult for the film, he thought there was a story to be told. His first point of contact was George Hardy - his movie father.
The documentary opens with George at his home in Alabama. He's a successful dentist, gregarious, loved by his community and possibly one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. As he travels with Michael to the many screenings of "Troll 2" all over North America - Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Toronto are a few - they and the rest of the cast members are treated as bonafide celebrities. And it's with such honesty and good-heartedness that you can't help but embrace them as well. "Best Worst Movie" is filled with laughter - not just by its fans at the screenings or by the viewers of the documentary (my friend Trista stopped breathing for a good 20 seconds or so at one point...), but by the subjects of the film as well. George and Michael in particular laugh a great deal and have no illusions as to the absurdity of everything around them. Their own relationship is the heart of the film.
Of course, there's always other viewpoints. Director Claudio Fragasso and his screenwriter wife Rosella Drudi, veterans of ~20 movies, were quite intent on putting together a parable of our modern age and still firmly believe they made a good movie. As they attend screenings in the U.S., Stephenson lets these Italian filmmakers discover for themselves how their movie is viewed and this makes Claudio's love/hate relationship with the fans and actors of his movie become one of the more intriguing aspects of this story. The fans never make fun of him and instead respect and appreciate the effort he put into his little masterpiece.
As one critic says, this is certainly not the worst movie ever made. There's a certain knowledge of the craft and obvious care for the end result (from the clips in the documentary, you see zooms, a variety of angles, different uses of lighting, etc.). It's just that it feels like it was made by "people who know how to make movies, but suffered a blow to the head". And a certain sense of delusion: the editor of the film is interviewed in the present day and insists that his film paved the way for the later popularity of productions like the Harry Potter movies.
Not all reunions are as jovial or side-splitting though. In particular is the somewhat sad story of Margo Prey. She played the mother character and now lives a very reclusive life caring for her elderly mother. She is obviously a bit delusional herself and not only because of her comparisons of her film to "Casablanca". She's the only cast member that doesn't participate in any of the reunions and there's something almost tragic about her current state. Having said that, the recreation of the "Row, row, row your boat" scene in her living room with Michael and George is tears-streaming-down-your-face funny.
There's many other surprising and even troubling moments that follow, but the overall feeling is one of warmth. As noted in the film, there's no cynicism in "Troll 2" and its fans have taken that to heart.
So if you're unhappy and can't find "Troll 2", just watch "Best Worst Movie".
Note: "Troll 2" will be showing at the Bloor Cinema on May 12th at 9:30PM.
"Best Worst Movie" trailer:
"Troll 2" trailer: