“Mostly I’ve frittered my life away… but what else is there to do with life but fritter it away?”
This is an odd one to review – as you’ll know perhaps from previous reviews, pretty much any horror documentary tends to get an automatic minimum of a 3 heart rating from me because I love the genre, and this one has been on my must-see list for some time… but it’s really something else than a horror documentary. The subject is the movie Troll 2, widely regarded as the worst movie ever made (but, y’know, in a good way); specifically the cast and crew of that movie and where they are now, 20 years later. Its closest relative lies far outside the horror genre, in the wonderful Anvil: The Story of Anvil.
For the most part, I’d say it really lives up to that comparison and I understand the high praise that led me to so badly want to see it. There’s a heartwarming sense about most of the participants that reminds one of movies like Ed Wood or Bowfinger …they were never trying to make art, really, they just figured it’d be fun to make a movie. I have to admit, I don’t go so wild for the “so bad it’s good” thing as others, so I was never really going to “get” much of the “fan” side of the documentary, but some of it is kind of glorious.
What let the movie down for me is the incredibly awkward sequences with those who actually were taking the movie seriously or those who clearly don’t really want to be associated with it. The most notable of these is the Italian director of the movie and his wife who wrote the screenplay. His wife actually makes a decent attempt to explain how this mad movie really did have a “message” of sorts but it still mostly comes across as kind of cringeworthy compared to those like the documentary maker himself who just accept that the movie was a glorious failure that became a cult classic. The director eventually justifies all this to himself but early on I felt pretty bad for him as he realised people were laughing at his movie and not with it.
Then there’s the sequence with the (like I say, otherwise good-natured) guy who leads the documentary (a cast member of Troll 2) at a UK comic convention. We see him prior to this repeating “classic” lines at other screenings and conventions, but it’s clear at the UK event that nobody has ever heard of the movie, and the guy genuinely seems embarrassed, in fact actually leaving the convention under the guise of blowing off its patrons (it’s clear who the biggest loser in the situation is, I’m afraid). On top of this is a sequence where the film makers track down another original cast member whose life now is caring for her elderly mother. The awkwardness of this scene is almost too much to bear. I haven’t even mentioned the cast member who was actually mentally ill at the time of filming, or the kindly old gentleman nobody who delivers the line quoted above.
In thinking about the movie after the credits rolled, however, I kinda began to think how even this awkwardness, the tragic element, only really adds to the humanity of the whole movie. As a true documentary, it could never really be all, “hey it was a bit of fun” like the movies I mentioned… these are real people in the end. I’m not sure I’m any more likely to watch this again than the movie it’s about… but “so human it’s awkward” is something you rarely get to say about a horror documentary, so there’s something here worth celebrating.