The American Society of Cinematographers

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Return to Table of Contents December 2010 Return to Table of Contents
Black Swan
Resident Evil-Afterlife
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
The Exorcist
Troll 2
ASC Close-Up
Troll 2 (1990)
Blu-ray Edition
1.85:1 (1080p High-Definition)
DTS-HD 5.1
MGM, 19.99

Here in American Cinematographer’s “DVD Playback” column, we often pay tribute to the finest cinema has to offer; this, however, is not one of those times. Troll 2 is, by general consensus, the worst movie ever made, the ultimate example of how wrong a cast and crew can go in the pursuit of celluloid glory. As of this writing, the movie comfortably sits among the bottom 100 on IMDB, and, earlier this year, it inspired a documentary titled, appropriately enough, Best Worst Movie. Yet this reputation is not entirely fair, for, in its own way, Troll 2 is as flat-out entertaining as the funniest comedy, the most rousing action film or the most melodic musical. It is a movie so goofy from conception to execution (and even to release, since it was retitled Troll 2 at the last minute even though it had nothing to do with the original Troll and featured no trolls anywhere in its story) that only a Scrooge could fail to appreciate its considerable pleasures.

The story of Troll 2 is so bizarre it almost defies synopsis, but this is a rough outline: family man Michael Waits (dentist-turned-actor George Hardy, who promptly went back to his dental career after this film) takes his wife and two kids on a trip to Nilbog, a sleepy farming community. Son Joshua (Michael Stephenson), aided by the ghost of his dead grandpa, quickly realizes Nilbog is actually a hotbed of monster activity and he and his kin are due to be turned into goblin food. To reveal too much more about the “plot” would be to rob the uninitiated of one of Troll 2’s greatest delights, the constant sense of discovery as the movie gets more and more ridiculous.

The director, European genre specialist Claudio Fragasso (who helmed Zombie 3 and 4, among other things), shot the film in Utah with an Italian crew and a non-union cast that included an actor out on a pass from a mental institution (who, incidentally, gives, arguably, the best performance in the movie). The script by Fragasso and longtime collaborator Rossella Drudi is a treasure trove of non-sequiturs; clearly the fact English was not the writers’ first language influenced lines like “I’m the victim of a nocturnal rapture. I have to release my lowest instincts into a woman.” When Fragasso’s dialogue finds expression in the mouths of his inexperienced cast, Troll 2 achieves a perfect storm of cinematic lunacy that must be seen to be believed.         

Now one can see Troll 2 on Blu-ray; even though Citizen Kane, Annie Hall and L’Avventura have yet to get the high-def treatment, Fragasso’s magnum opus has been digitally remastered in all its splendor. Fans who have grown used to faded VHS and standard-def DVD versions of the film will be surprised to find how good the movie looks on Blu-ray; the colors are bold, the grain and shadow detail sharp and the flesh tones no longer have the dull pallor of prior video incarnations. The new 5.1 soundtrack is adequate at best, but it still sounds better than any version of the film I have ever seen. A few specks in the source material aside, the Blu-ray transfer is one more argument against truly considering Troll 2 a “bad” movie in the conventional sense since it does prove to have a number of visually arresting images.

The cinematographer is Giancarlo Ferrando, AIC, a name familiar to fans of Italian horror films thanks to his ultra-stylish work on classic giallo movies such as Torso and All the Colors of the Dark. Though Ferrando, like everyone involved with Troll 2, is somewhat limited by the budget and script, he acquits himself admirably and gives the story a wild palette of bright greens and pinks that is actually a shockingly appropriate complement to the off-kilter content. Like the director and actors, Ferrando does not condescend to his material — he shoots it straight, and ultimately that is what gives Troll 2 its considerable charm: the sheer dedication of everyone involved behind and in front of the camera. If anyone in the cast had let on he was in on the joke, Troll 2 would be merely lame; the fact everyone (especially Hardy) throws himself into his performance with wild abandon and commitment makes the movie completely hilarious. Sadly, the Blue-ray contains no extra features aside from a trailer, so those looking for some deep background on Troll 2 are best advised to check out Best Worst Movie to learn about all things Nilbog. 

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