For the next several days, I'll be touching on stuff that happened and/or was released last year that I never got around to writing about. We all need ways to make our year-to-year transition easier -- this is mine.
I didn't write about Best Worst Movie last fall when it finally came out on DVD, because here's probably not much more to say about it. It is as acclaimed as Troll 2 is critically reviled (0% on the Tomatometer and holding!). But just try to stop me upon reflection! Much like my favorite movie of '10, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Best Worst Movie is a documentary whose appeal is not limited by its subject -- it is a good movie, period. I'm apathetic about Troll 2 as a film (I've seen better worst movies!), but I'm fascinated with it as a piece of media and a phenomenon. Best Worst Movie documents it as such in more detail than it probably deserves, and is better for it. This is a film about bad movies, in general. It is about those who understand them and those who most certainly don't (one person we meet in the latter category refers to Troll 2 as "cultic"). One of the biggest of several laughs here comes when Troll 2 star George Hardy hosts a screening in his small hometown to people who clearly don't give a shit about garbage cinema. Here's my favorite reaction after the movie is over:
That woman needs to understand that you don't piss on hospitality! Clearly, she's learned nothing.
But the greatest thing about Best Worst Movie is how humanizing it is. More than anything, a terrible movie seems like a great opportunity for cathartic shitting-on. Maybe it's because there are so many people involved that to call out someone for being particularly terrible is to call out a team for letting them be that way (it softens the blow you throw, or at least, that's how it feels when throwing it). Maybe the fictive nature of ridiculous cinema on top of it being host to material that any reasonable person couldn't suspend disbelief for makes it feel that much less real. Maybe you just don't figure that individuals involved in making movies will ever catch wind your disdain. Regardless, they do -- actress Connie Young talks about being really hurt by IMDb comments about her performance in Troll 2, however many years after the movie was filmed and while fully aware of how bad it was upon viewing. In fact, many of the actors involved had the same instant reaction (but, weirdly, thought they were making a good movie up until seeing it). “My childhood dreams went up in flames. I hated this movie. I ran from Troll 2 and I wanted nothing to do with it," is how Michael Stephenson puts it (he played the son of the family Troll 2 centers on is the director of Best Worst Movie).
How they react to it now is a different matter: George is clearly proud of the movie since it's been resurrected by fanboys (he calls it "the worst movie ever made" as a bragging right). Robert Ormsby (Grandpa Seth) talks about his lifelong love of bad movies and gushes, "It's wonderful to find out I made a bad movie. A really bad movie that got to be famous!” (That is exactly how I'd feel, by the way.) Meanwhile, Margo Prey, who played the mom, seems to have no sense of very much at all (the fact that she's virtually reclusive and otherwise seemingly paranoid can't possibly help with her perception of her ridiculous movie). Her exact quote on Troll 2's cinematic legacy:
"You compare our movie to a Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart movie and it fits in. Because our movie was all about people and the experiences those people are experiencing. Just as Casablanca and those movies are about people and the experiences they are experiencing.”
Yes, the weirdo factor is high here. Everything with Margo is golden. She seems legitimately frustrated when Michael laughs in the middle of a scene recreation, in which as his mother, she requests that he sing "that song I like," which turns out to be "Row Row Row Your Boat" (you know the one!). Don Packard, who played a store owner, is another real gem. "As soon as you tell people you have mental problems, they still act like you’re nutty," he says at the beginning of his segment. I can't think of a more fabulous introduction. He talks about being high during filming and having no idea what was going on ("I wasn’t acting. That was a troubled person talking.”) But the best thing he does is talk crazy shit on his child co-star ("I wanted to kill him!") seemingly unaware that the person he's referring to and the person that he's talking to for this interview are one and the same. Unbelievable.
And then there is the director Claudio Fragasso, whom we essentially watch come to terms with the ironic adoration his film has received. He's really serious about it!
You know, people experiencing experiences.
After what is apparently his first screening with a rabid audience, he comes to realize that not everyone sees his film as he does:
He never quite embraces the "best worst movie" tag that he's confronted with awkwardly on multiple occasions, but he does acquire some perspective on it:
And you know, he's right. Granted, he's still very serious about a movie that his wife wrote out of irritation with vegetarians (Troll 2's goblin antagonists are basically vampires who crave vegetables instead of blood) and who maintains the film is a "ferocious analysis of today's society." So that's tragic. And granted, he's rationalizing. But there is something beautiful about him learning to appreciate the appreciation he's been dealt. We're watching self-acceptance unfold.
Oh, and Shandi from ANTM 2 is in it!