FILM How do you make a cult movie? The short answer is, you can’t. Cult movies become what they are not by the efforts of their filmmakers; they must be elevated to second-coming status by fans, superfans who dress in costume and host semi-regular viewing parties, and mega-superfans who get tattoos tributes.
Blessed with the magical combination of terrible acting, zero-budget production values, a laughable script, and directing choices so bizarre they had to be intentional, 1989’s Troll 2 was destined from the start to either wind up in total bargain-bin obscurity or be one of the most backhandedly-praised cult movies of a generation. The documentary Best Worst Movie, helmed by Michael Paul Stephenson (also known as Troll 2‘s freckle-faced kid star), traces the would-be horror flick’s path, from filming in small-town Utah with an amateur cast and a non-English-speaking Italian crew, to straight-to-vid anonymity, to becoming a late-night TV perennial who eventually found a rabidly enthusiastic audience.
Best Worst Movie does a fine job establishing Troll 2‘s cult cred, but it’s also interested in examining what happens to people who are famous only because of their association with one singularly memorable show-biz moment. For Dr. George Hardy — an excitable dentist whose stiff, eminently quotable performance as Troll 2‘s patriarch was his only film gig — his fame, two decades after the larky experience of making a movie he thought nobody would see, is a pleasant surprise (for the most part). For director Claudio Fragasso, who has two dozen non-Troll 2-related credits on his resume, the attention is welcome but also off-putting: he doesn’t seem to grasp that the reason his movie is great is because it’s so bad. Nor is he amused by the fact that his “important film” is considered by many to be a guffaw-inducing joke.
The doc’s worth your time, but Troll 2 is essential viewing no matter what. Screenwriter Rosella Drudi (Fragasso’s wife) penned the script — about a regl’ar family on vacation who realizes they’re under siege by the local goblin population — because she was pissed off at vegetarians. The rest is hard to explain, but gloriously easy to enjoy.
Fri/4-Sat/5, midnight, $8–$10.50
1572 California, SF
BEST WORST MOVIE opens Fri/4 in Bay Area theaters; Stephenson and Hardy in person at selected opening-weekend shows.