This week's VHS is John Carl Buechler's 1986 urban fantasy Troll.
An evil troll terrorizes a modern day apartment building in an attempt to restore his kingdom to its former glory.
I had never seen Troll before. A few years ago, during all the Best Worst Movie hoopla, I got swept up in all the wonderful badness of Claudio Fragasso's sequel and just assumed that there was nothing particularly special about the film that, if only in title only, proceeded it. Recently, I finally finished my Seinfeld box set re-watch and remembered Troll was Julia Louis-Dreyfus' film debut. Seemed like as good a time as any to cross this one of the list.
And oh my God, this movie! I was not prepared for just how bonkers this movie was. It just kept on giving. Even setting aside the hilarious fact this was a fantasy movie with a main character named Harry Potter Jr, this movie had me grinning pretty much from the get-go.
|The Potter Family.|
I remember being surprised by how early they showed the Troll. I guess I was expecting something along the lines of Ghoulies or Elves that under-delivered on their antagonists. Not the case here, as this movie was teeming with all manner of fairy creatures. During the fantastic sequence where Sonny Bono transformed into – whatever that thing was – I remember exclaiming “holy shit, this movie has some money behind it!” And the weirdness just kept on coming...
So much to unpack here. Like what was up with the terrible hands-off parenting of Michael Moriarty & Shelly Hack when Evil Wendy was playing up. I can tell you if I ever bit my Dad I would have gotten my fucking teeth knocked out. I also recalled halfway through being bewildered that Moriarty was the least wacky thing about this movie. And then he caught up...
I've seen 1993's Leprechaun several times, but obviously never knew that Troll must have been their template, as the creature designs were similar and the visual effects almost interchangeable. Also not lost on me was the coincidence that two of the most famous sitcom actresses ever both got their starts in these titles. Again, it's crazy to me that seeing Elaine running around a magical forest half-naked seemed completely normal within the zany context of this movie.
|I went to this audition & yada-yada-yada I was wearing vines for underwear...|
Buechler must have had so many balls in the air on this project and still managed to pull it off. I also really dug that Phil Fondacaro, the guy in the Troll suit, also got to do double duty as Professor Mallory. As wild as this movie was there were some really solid exchanges between adults and children, namely Fondacaro and Jenny Beck (who it took me a while to recall she was the alien hybrid from V) as well as The Neverending Story's Noah Hathaway and June Lockhart. And I haven't even mentioned Richard Band's musical number!
Though the Critters series will always own my heart when it comes to eighties puppet baddies, I really have to applaud Buechler for how many creature effects he was able to cram into eighty-two minutes. I now understand the initial reactions of the people who saw the sequel. Troll 2 has its own merits, unintentional as they may be, but it's worlds away from this gem from Empire Pictures.