Troll (1986) / Troll 2 (1990)
Director(s): John Carl Buechler / Claudio Fragasso
Starring: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Phil Fondacaro & June Lockhart / Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie Young, Robert Ormsby & Deborah Reed
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Casting a spell of fantastical frights, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents a pair of knee-high cult favorites! Shortly after moving into their new apartment building, Troll finds big brother Harry Potter Jr. (Noah Hathaway, The NeverEnding Story) recognizing dramatic changes in his little sister’s behavior. With a mischievous troll behind the trouble, the mythical monster begins transforming the apartments into gardens of evil and their tenants into disgusting hobgoblins with Harry serving as their only hope. Next up, the vastly unrelated Troll 2 finds a family of four taking a lengthy vacation in a desolate farm community. Upon arrival, the unsuspecting visitors find themselves as the main course for the town’s human-morphing tribe of goblins.
Shot in Italy at the height of Empire Pictures’ success, Troll continues the decade’s trend of dark fantasy family-oriented efforts, albeit on a significantly lower budget. Boasting one of Empire’s more impressive casts including, prominent child actor Noah Hathaway and Phil Fondacaro (Willow), performing dual roles as Torok the Troll and the heartwarming Professor Malcolm Mallory, to the film debut of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) and the curious casting of Sonny Bono as a hilarious swinging tenant, Troll hosts an eclectic range of thespians for such a modestly produced effort. Sporting impressive creature designs crafted by its director John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood), this special-effects cheapie, although slowly paced, offers plenty of adolescent fun as Harry Potter Jr. treks into Torok’s vast gardens to retrieve his sister and confront a snarling giant monster. A bonafide smash on home video that may have influenced a certain student of Hogwarts, Troll has remained a cult favorite for its fairy tale atmosphere and charming effects work.
Capitalizing on the minor success of 1986’s Troll and helmed by an Italian-speaking crew, Troll 2 serves no connection to its family-fantasy predecessor yet, would develop an unexpected following like no other. Shot on location in Utah and utilizing local talent, Troll 2, partly plagued by communication breakdowns between cast and crew, is a nonsensical disaster that welcomes more unintended laughter than genuine scares. Substituting trolls for goblins and witches, the film’s poorly designed monster effects and stilted acting of its inexperienced performers demands how a film of such hilariously poor quality could be crafted. Traveling to the not so cleverly named town of Nilbog, a vacationing family find themselves encouraged to eat brightly colored green food in order for the local goblin community to better feast upon their flesh. Young Joshua Waits (Michael Stephenson, Beyond Darkness), aided by the spirit of his deceased grandfather, must protect his family at all costs by urinating on their tainted food or devouring a double-stacked bologna sandwich to ward off the vegan-preferred goblins. Horribly received upon its short-lived release and embarrassingly repressed by most of its creators, Troll 2 would be resurrected as one of the most infamous “bad” movies of all time where it has garnered massive appreciation by devoted cult cinema aficionados. Uncontrollably funny and reeking of poor quality, Troll 2 remains one of the most entertaining romps for fans of “so bad, they’re good” cinema.
Scream Factory presents both Troll and Troll 2 with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios. Possessing filmic levels of grain, the original film’s moments of effects work can become noticeably more grainy while, skin tones are generally pleasing and detail nicely brings out the impressive creature designs of John Carl Buechler. Meanwhile, its sequel appears in slightly better condition, sharing the same appearance as its previous Blu-ray release by MGM in 2010. Clarity is sharp with the film’s brightly colored emphasis on green liquid popping nicely while, detail in the less than effective monster effects pleases with skin tones of the human cast appearing quite naturally. Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue in both films are well handled and prominently prioritized while, sound effects and the sequel’s oddly contrasting synth soundtrack delivers excellent depth. Special features include, a typically great Scream Factory featurette with Troll Empire: The Making of Troll (50:07) featuring new interviews with Producer Charles Band, Director John Carl Buechler, Writer Ed Naha and many more. In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (2:47) and a Photo Gallery (1:27) are included. Furthermore, its sequel arrives with a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Actors George Hardy & Deborah Reed and its Theatrical Trailer (2:21). Finally, included on DVD, albeit only the first 5,000 units of the release, is 2010’s Best Worst Movie. Helmed by Troll 2’s Michael Stephenson, this heartfelt and enthralling documentary takes a retrospective look at the disaster of Troll 2 with interviews from its cast and its delusional director Claudio Fragasso who still hails the film as a work of quality.
Providing viewers with a double dose of fantasy-filled scares and unintended comedy, Scream Factory’s packaging of Director John Carl Buechler’s low-budget charmer with its misleadingly titled catastrophe of a sequel make for solid inclusions into the labels eclectic lineup. Joined by the wonderfully conceived documentary Best Worst Movie and other newly produced bonus features, this collection of cult favorites is one worth being afraid of for all the right reasons.