Bad Movies Done Right — Christmas in Nilbog

Christmas is a time of traditions.

Whether it’s sitting around a fire with family and singing carols or carefully unwrapping the corners of presents so you can get a sneak peek at what you’ll be receiving under the tree, yuletide rituals are key this time of the year.

One of my traditions in recent years has been watching “Elf,” the 2003 Will Ferrell movie about a human raised by elves.

Relegated to the world of repeated broadcasts on basic cable, the film is almost impossible not to watch come Christmas time.

There have been quite a few movies about Christmas elves. Weather they are played by midgets, children or 6′ 3″ ex-Saturday Night Live stars, elves have always gotten their fair share of the spotlight when it comes to Christmas movies.

It’s not just elves, either.

The Leprechaun has got an entire franchise that saw him travel everywhere from outer space to the inner city ghetto. Fairies and sprites have always had a lucrative career in animated movies. And trolls … well, trolls have had their fair share of the fun too.

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Troll is a 1986 film with an all-star cast of b-movie proportions that includes Sonny Bono, Anne Lockhart, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Moriarty. The movie is a fantasy/comedy/horror about a troll attempting to turn an apartment complex into a ren fair nut’s wet dream.

Oh, and another thing: “Troll” features the original Harry Potter.

Yes, that’s right. Years before J.K. Rowling dreamt up her four-eyed boy wizard cash cow, Troll featured Harry Potter Jr. saving his little sister from the evil machinations of an insidious troll that had the power to turn Sonny Bono into a giant hairy pickle.

The movie begins with the Potter family making a poor choice about what day to move into their new apartment.

Before they can even unpack all of their boxes, the littlest Potter, Wendy, has stumbled upon the movie’s namesake, a nasty troll who apparently likes to hide in laundry rooms.

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After kidnapping Wendy and stealing her identity, the troll ninjas his way into the Potter family. When he isn’t going nuts about the exquisite taste of hamburgers or putting the smack down on his new big brother, Harry Potter, the Troll takes the time to visit all of his new neighbors and transform them into giant pulsating pickles that, when they pop, unleash a mess of foliage and fairies upon the apartment.

Soon enough, the apartment building is full of dancing, singing Muppets.

A singing, chirping mushroom puppet is just one of many terrifying creatures that inhabit the world of “Troll.”

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Luckily, Harry Potter discovers an ally in his battle to rescue his sister, Eunice St. Clair, a former princess/current witch whose duty it is to put a stop to her former boyfriend, the troll.

Yes, the movie is silly and yes there is no shortage of corny, awkward laugh-inducing scenes but there is still something charming about the film. When compared to most of the live-action family movies that get released every year, Troll has a surplus of heart and imagination. There are some pretty decent special effects and, for small children, some real good scares.

Plus, children of all ages can find something to learn from the film.

For example, I discovered that it’s perfectly acceptable for little people to befriend small children because of their height similarity. While you may think it’s creepy that a middle-aged man would become friends with a small girl and invite her into his apartment unaccompanied, everything’s A-OK as long as they are both shorter then four feet.

Plus, apparently all little people harbor a secret dream to become elves and if they are lucky enough to befriend a small girl who is really a troll in disguise, they will have their dreams come true and be transformed into Gelfling-looking Muppets that vaguely resemble an elf version of themselves.

I also learned that Sonny Bono as a swinging bachelor is a lot more frightening to me then any number of trolls, goblins, giant bat-monsters or talking tree stumps.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus makes a hot wood nymph though.

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Troll 2 is a sequel only in name to the Sonny Bono fantasy film. In fact, the movie doesn’t even feature any trolls. The potato-sack wearing, paper-mache mask donning monsters of the movie are actually goblins. And in case you forget that fact, they actually live in a town named Nilbog, which is “goblin” spelled backwards naturally.

When Joshua and his family decide to vacation in the small town of Nilbog, they unintentionally wind up on the menu for a town full of shape-changing goblins. From there, things get a little weird.

It seems that goblins can’t stand the taste of meat — which puts a bit of a dampener on their love for eating humans. Not one to let a little thing like biology get in the way of their desire to chow down on people, the goblins concoct an elaborate scheme that involves feeding people nasty green Gak-looking slime.

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Once a person chows down on this junk, they are turned into human/plant hybrids — the perfect late-night snack for a hungry goblin.

Thankfully, Joshua has a little help in saving his family from becoming goblin chow: his dead grandfather who may or may not be in hell.

With his grandfather coaching him, Joshua will stop at nothing when it comes to saving his parents from being turned into plant-people; including pulling down his pants and peeing on dinner, playing with fire and crashing goblin church services.

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The movie has become known in recent years for its highly quotable bad dialogue that is delivered in truly bizarre ways from a cast of mostly amateur actors.

Earlier this year I had the chance to see the film “Best Worst Movie.”

A documentary about the legacy of “Troll 2,” “Best Worst Movie was made by Michael Stephenson, the now-adult actor who played young Joshua in the 1990 horror film.

Although Stephenson’s film was an amazing story that was entertaining from start to finish, I walked out of his movie a little conflicted.

Sure my sides hurt from laughing so hard at the documentary’s loving ribbing of “Troll 2,” but I remembered really digging the horror movie when I saw it as a kid.

Could I possibly have liked a movie that bad? Or was a generation’s love for irony and cynicism responsible for taking a decent horror movie and transforming it into something epic in its awfulness.

Well, after watching “Troll 2″ for the first time in almost 20 years, I have to say that yes, the movie is that bad.

It turns out I had a terrible taste in films as a kid (some would say, I still do).

Troll 2 may not be the film I remembered it being as a kid, but it is still enjoyable to watch — if only because it truly is the best worst movie.

Watching the film for the first time since seeing Best Worst Movie, I noticed that Stephenson’s documentary had a definite effect on my enjoyment of the film.

Now having known a little more about the actors and crew who made the movie, I spent more time wondering what was going through the cast and crew’s heads while they made the movie then actually paying attention to the plot and story.

Best Worst Movie takes a loving look at the people who were affected by Troll 2 — both the cast and the fans.

Between interviews with the movie’s stars, including dentist George Hardy (who may actually be the nicest man in the world) who played Michael Waits, the stern but loving father in the movie; the film takes a look at the cult of fans that have surrounded the film and saved the movie from slipping into obscurity.

If you get a chance to see the film (and hopefully you will), take it. Best Worst Movie is one of the most entertaining documentaries about movies that I have ever seen — what American Movie wished it was.

Robert Saucedo likes to think Santa Claus leaves plant/human hybrids under the trees for all the good goblins in Nilbog. Visit him on the web at www.robsaucedo.com.

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