For Whom the Bull Trolls (Pt. 2): Happily, If Not Reluctantly, Lost in Nilbog

Part of the problem of writing about films that have gained a large amount of notoriety is that they have achieved exactly that. Choose any movie title commonly believed or widely held to be of the truly atrocious variety, then go just about anywhere on the Intranets, and it becomes rather easy to find two primary reactions to that film.

The first is of the "that movie sucked my will to live" type, wherein the attempted reviewer will cast the film onto a bonfire of hatred that will invariably include a brace of curse words, appeals for "wanting my money back," and/or a declaration that the reviewer has now realized that there are now that many less minutes in their all-too-brief lifespan that they will never get back, generally corresponding directly to the running time of said film, though usually rounded off at either 90 minutes or two hours.

The second reaction, related only to the first in determination, is of a far more optimistic vein, though still angled as a back-handed compliment: "This film is --" (you know what's coming) " -- SO BAD, IT'S GOOD."

I once met someone who held the second reaction regarding Citizen Kane. Their take was that the film, completing writing off both its overall excellence in filmmaking technique and its massive influence both upon its release in 1941 and through the then-50 years hence, was too broadly done to be taken seriously, and that it was ham-handed and obvious in its every scene. But, they then attempted to soothe my swiftly bubbling-over contempt for their opinion that it was Kane's very campiness that still made it enjoyable. In essence, they were adopting the "so bad, it's good" stance. I would have felt, had it been one of my closer, sharper friends, that this person were merely trying to put one over on me. But this person, thankfully no longer of my acquaintance, was a dullard of spectacular proportions, and I held their every opinion on every subject imaginable to be circumspect, if not outright unremarkable or foolish. I still truly believe, given the knowledge of the remainder of their mouth-breathing diatribes, that this person meant every word of their take on Kane.

I have nothing but contempt for the first reaction detailed above. It, and all elements of it described in the paragraph, reveals nothing but wish fulfillment on the part of the "reviewer" to not take control of their own actions. They put the onus on the film for ruining their time, taking their money, sucking their will, and shortening their existence by how ever much they determine. They apparently didn't decide to go out with their friends and randomly choose a film on Friday night, or select one of tens of thousands of titles in a Netflix queue. There was a gun held to their head, it seems, and their only chance of revenge is to whine incessantly about how horrible their experience turned out to be on an internet movie or gaming site board. Suck it up, pinheads, take some responsibility for those actions, and try to approach your overall movie experience a tad more critically. Or just plain shut up.

However, as much as I despise the overly repeated critical shorthand of "so bad, it's good," I find it exceedingly difficult to totally discount this second widely used reaction. The truth of the matter, and any bad-movie fan knows this, is that sometimes movies are so ridiculously noxious, their very rottenness does become entertaining. For years, Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space was touted as the Worst Film of All Time, and it gained a sizable audience for this supposed aspect of its being, even if not only did Mr. Wood have a handful of far worse films in his oeuvre, but there were a great many worse films, by many other equally fumble-fingered creators, at hand. I would much rather watch Plan 9 than the vast majority of them, as I have grown largely inured to the pitfalls of watching a film of such notorious construction, and have accepted it as a Halloween treat or occasional afternoon delight over the years. This doesn't mean that I rate it higher than other bad films, or rank it higher because of the enjoyment I derive from it. Despite my abiding affection for it, Plan 9 is still quite obviously a very crappy and clumsily built film, rating no higher than a 3 on my 9 scale (upon which I rate for overall excellence and fulfilled potential, and not necessarily, or even usually, personal enjoyment).

Peek at a list of the films that showed up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 over the span of the show, and you will instantly recognize many of those "worse" films. Thanks to MST3K, a film like Manos: Hands of Fate, of which I must be honest and admit that I had never heard before the 'Bots nearly discombobulated watching it, has grown immensely in decrepit reputation, as have many others. And, for a short period, Troll 2, completely unrelated to the original Empire Pictures Troll film from five years earlier and not sadly not benefitting (?) from a knocking from the MST3K crew, sat on IMDB as the Worst Film of All Time, though it has since been supplanted by a many other seemingly terrible films. (For the record, as of today, The Starfighters sits at #1 with a rounded 1.4 rating; Troll is much farther down (up?) in the pack with a 1.9; Manos is the lowest rated film with over 10,000 votes, though.)

Personally, I find boredom the most heinous of cinematic crimes. At least, in a truly poor excuse for a film, you can encounter stiffly hilarious acting which can be repeated later over dinner with your pals in an exaggerated fashion, boom mikes threatens to knock off an actor's hairpiece, or someone missing a punch by eight feet but the other actor crashes through the obviously rigged furniture or pile of empty cardboard boxes in the warehouse anyway. These are the types of moments that can make the experience of watching even the crappiest film worthwhile. Humdrum, generic drama that just freezes the screen and makes you check your watch, rote comedy hitting all of the same cliches and beats as the previous 12,637 comedies, or wholly unbelievable romances where two people only deserve each other because they are both insufferable, self-absorbed idiots are far more insidious and unbearable to me. Certainly far more than an ultra-low budget film, posing as a sequel to a film of no relation whatsoever, by small-time filmmakers just trying to eke out a living by having a few local Utah actors spout out some disconnected, half-assed drivel to inane musical cues while fighting a dozen little people in the stiffest, most unappealing costumes ever designed.

I would take the scruffy, ramshackle, wholly untalented "charms" of Troll 2 over the ennui-inducing likes of Stepmom or Bicentennial Man any day. This is not a case where maybe tens of thousands of people voting Troll 2 lowly are just not getting the film, and perhaps it is only misunderstood and in need of a hand guiding everyone over to Troll 2's eventual status as a "lost classic." No, it is most assuredly no lost or misunderstood classic, but the other thing that I do not find about Troll 2 is that it is boring. It was just too shockingly inane to hate. If nothing else, the film is a horn-of-plenty of ineptitude.

But, I will not go deeply into the details of what makes Troll 2 so reversely special in ways you could not even begin to imagine. You can find Troll 2 references and scenes all over the internet, and I wholeheartedly invite you to do so. Make an afternoon of it. Bring a picnic lunch, sit cross-legged in front of your laptop, spread that lunch out on your lap, and enjoy yourself. (Just make sure none of that food is of a sickly green tinge, or you will be adding to it...) Do a search on YouTube, and you can find scads of clips of a character screaming how he is going to be eaten; a ridiculously incongruous dance by the teenage daughter in front of a mirror; Nilbog milk drinking; and the amazing corncob-nuzzling sequence, which, if you have not been exposed to it, will leave your jaw agape in befuddlement (perhaps even oddly titillated... if so, well, that's something you will have to either work out for yourself or learn to accept.)

Like any genre film with a sizable following, a search on Google will lead you to sci-fi, fantasy and horror boards all over the 'net, where people quote their favorite lines over and over. Of course, most of the references to the film comprise one or both of the reactions that I described far above, but that is to be expected in these extreme cases. If you want your Troll 2 quotes all at once, hit IMDb and read 'em all. Well, nearly all of them, for my own personal favorite, the daughter's perfectly imperfect reading of the atrociously written line referring to the "wonderful, half-deserted town of Nilbog," is not actually on the IMDb listing. But, honestly, the entire script is riddled with such incompetence (I have heard whispers that the cast was forced to read verbatim the Italian director/screenwriter's fractured verbiage, but don't quote me on that), that the only justice in making a quote list is to simply read the whole damn thing outright. And if you really want to get closer to the source, there is even a website devoted to a reunion festival/gathering last summer in the town which had been transformed into Nilbog nearly 20 years ago to unleash Troll 2 upon the whole world.

Are we all the better for it being unleashed upon us? That depends largely on whether you are the sort of person more prone to Reaction series #1 or Reaction #2. I am the sort that rather relishes terrible films, almost on an equal par with artistically worthwhile ones, so maybe I cannot be trusted here. Oh, but I can be trusted! I have told you without reservation that Troll 2 is abhorrent by every measurable scale of moviemaking expertise and professionalism. The film sucks. But, then again, the film does not suck. Not in the way that one would usually describe a sucking film. Because what Troll 2 offers, almost completely in spite of what it brings to the table, is unabashed entertainment. It may not be the type of entertainment you were hoping for going in, but... damn it, you rented a movie called Troll 2! If you were actually expecting quality, or even hoping for it, then you are likely the sort who is going to lower oneself to spewing out a Reaction #1 statement.

And if you were expecting Citizen Kane, well, I don't want to know what is wrong with you. Despite this, though, it's likely that we will both come around to Reaction #2 and be content, if not exactly dovetailing, in our shared opinion: Troll 2 is the film for which the cliche "so bad, it's good" was invented. I will just have to learn to accept Reaction #2 as a standard.


EggOfTheDead said…
Troll 2 now on my Netflix list! Crappy "Engrish" dialogue makes me laugh my head off :-)

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