Best Worst Movie (2009)

bestworstmovie_posterImagine this: you’re a little boy with big Hollywood dreams. A great opportunity comes along, and you’re offered the starring role in a horror movie. You make the film and can’t wait to see it. You sit down to watch it and… oh my god! It’s the most dreadful thing you’ve ever seen! What do you do? Well, I suppose when you grow up, you own the shit out of it and make a documentary about it! At least that’s what Michael Stephenson, star of the 1990 horror film Troll 2did.

You don’t have to have seen Troll 2 to enjoy this documentary, but it certainly helps. It is essential, though, that you at least have some curiosity about the idea of the so-bad-it’s-good corners of the film world. This documentary isn’t just about the experience of making Troll 2, it’s also about the fallout of acting in such a film. Perhaps most interestingly, though, Best Worst Movie is about the film’s rise (fall?) to cult classic status.

Seeing as how Troll 2 is one of the most perplexing films ever made, it is pretty cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at the thing. Incredibly, its reason for being is even more strange than one could have imagined. The director, Claudio Fragasso, co-wrote the film with his girlfriend, Rossella Drudi. Apparently, Drudi’s motivation for making the goblins of Nilbog evil herbivores was her own distaste for all of her friends turning vegetarian. Who would have guessed? That, of course, is just one stitch of weirdness in the fabric of bizarre that makes up this film. Add to the mix the fact that Fragasso  believed he knew the ins and outs of what it meant to be an American teenager, despite constant pleas from the actors to change some of his most awkwardly-written lines. And how about the guy who played the kooky store owner; turns out he’d walked on set right after stepping out of the mental institution. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Many of the film’s actors, after watching it for the first time, wanted to put the film behind them. Perhaps more than anyone else, Connie Young (who plays Holly, Joshua’s older sister in the film) was embarrassed beyond belief at being in such a film. Of course, they didn’t think it’d be so hard to shake off a film that, surely, no one would see. But then comes the cult thing. Suddenly, people start recognizing the actors. Ms. Young wanted desperately to deny it, but others, most notably George Hardy (Mr. Waits, Joshua’s father, and a dentist by profession) wore it like a badge of honor, telling his patients: “I was in the worst movie ever made,” and even acting out scenes from the film at midnight showings, horror conventions, and even in his own office. So what if your fifteen minutes of fame comes more than a decade after your film is made?

Less amused by the film’s newly-acquired cult status is Fragasso. After attending a viewing, the guy is just baffled: why is the audience laughing?, he seems to ask himself. And this, I think, is the key to what makes a bad movie a good movie; it’s all in the intention behind it. Fragasso and Drudi believed they were going to scare people with Troll 2. They believed in the film they were making. They were passionate about it. And that, above all else, I think is what makes a bad movie cult-able. This, of course, is nothing new; I’ve said this before and lord knows I will say it again. This is also probably why I’ve never understood the attraction to the Troma world; those movies were made to be bad. That’s not the same thing. Not by a long shot.

Best Worst Movie is just great. I love how willing the people involved with the film are to engage Stephenson and even the cult film audiences at the theatrical showings of Troll 2. Watching a film go from something its actors reject to something they (reluctantly) embrace is truly a cool thing. If you’re into cult movies, you must see this! Chances are, though, you probably already have.


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