Sunday, February 3, 2013

I'm a Troll Man

Troll and I have a complicated history, primarily because as a child, the box cover art terrified the living pigtails out of me.

I know, I know. This is the same person who was left unimpressed by The Exorcist. 

In fourth grade. 

I grew up with horror, and yet for some reason, that steely eyed gaze of a mucus dripping goblin thing wrapping his fingers around a rainbow bouncing ball did something to little old me. It probably owes most to the fact that as a child, I (rather understandably) found kids-in-peril to be a tad, you know, SCARY. Because at the time, I was a kid. And didn't want to be in peril.

Childhood psychology aside, it's February so let's talk Troll!

And when you're finished here, check out Pearce's Horror Movie Reviews for another take.

Quick Plot: That wacky Michael Moriarty plays Harry Potter, father to Harry Potter Jr. 

Should we talk about this?

Nah, why linger in legal issues when we've got Michael Moriarty lip synching to classic rock!

The Potters are busy moving into a new apartment building in San Francisco. Young daughter Wendy decides to take a tour of her new home's basement. The good news is the building has laundry! The bad news is it also has trolls.

Trolls, in this universe, aren't the House Party-haired good luck charms they came to be in the '90s. This being 1986, trolls are nasty little creatures that can possess humans (in this case, innocent Wendy) to impersonate them and transform an apartment building into their magical forest realm. Along with this, they wear magic mood rings that trollify humans, be they the kind little person Phil Fondacaro (doubling as the troll), a pre-Elaine Benes Julia Louis Dreyfuss, or a self-proclaimed ladies' man swinger Sonny Bono.

Oh yeah. THAT Sonny Bono.

Thankfully there's a witch on hand to help Harry Potter Jr. (go with it) save his sister and battle the wizard-turned-troll. Witch in question is played by June Lockhart (and in a younger incarnation, by her own daughter) as a no-nonsense crone with a mild potty mouth.

Sadly, unlike Lockhart's rival, this witch does not speak jive.

Truthfully though, I wouldn't be surprised if Lockheart DID break out into a jive monologue because Troll, you see, is a strange film. Directed by John Carl Buechler (Ghoulies 3 and Friday the 13th Part VII: The Carrie One) with a script from Dolls' Ed Naha, Troll falls into the Venn diagram meeting quadrant of fantasy, horror, and comedy, not too big a surprise considering it was produced by Full Moon's Charles Band. It's a style that you don't see often today, both for better (because when it ain't done right, it hurts) and worse (because when it's done right, it's weirdly joyful).

Troll is done right. I think. There's the possibility that it's just such an odd, one-of-a-kind sort of film that there's just nothing out there to really compare it to. I dare YOU to name another '80s genre movie with middle age pop star cameos, elaborate puppetry, lip synching Michael Moriarty, and references to the epic poem that I wrote a paper on in college, The Faerie Queen. Nay, I double DOG dare you.

Buechler's tone is all over the place, and that's kind of special in itself. Watching Troll as an adult, I can still understand why it gave me nightmares, just as I can easily see why other viewers would find it laughable. This is the movie that taught Elaine how to dance! This is the movie that has an innocent little girl being possessed by a disgusting and murderous troll! THIS IS THE MOVIE WHERE SONNY BONO TALKS DIRTY!

This is something special.

High Points
The sheer weirdness of Troll makes it, in its own way, far more memorable than its infamous name-only sequel

Low Points
Others could argue that Troll has no idea what it is or who it's trying to appeal to. A PG audience filled with elementary school students? Necking teenagers ready for jumps? Sonny Bono fans?  Eh, let's have a drink and call it a unifier!

The Winning Line(s)
So many to choose from, all spoken by The Neverending Story's Noah Hathaway. Let us count down:
Mom: Keep an eye on your sister
Atreyu: I’d rather watch Star Trek!

Atreyu: Have you been playing with dead cats?

Atreyu: Can I come in? I think I’m gonna throw up.

Lessons Learned
Being trolled will cause one to eat Fantastic Mr. Fox style

Trolls are super good at spear throwing

Beauty generally fades with age, though acting ability apparently fades with age reversal

At barely 80 minutes, Troll is a breezy little oddity well worth revisiting if it's been, like me, a few decades. The DVD is floating around at a pretty bargain price, often paired with its goblin-filled followup. Give it a whirl. If nothing else, there's this:


  1. This is such an odd little movie but, like you say, strangely enjoyable! Plus Michael Moriarty's dance scene is simply dazzling.

  2. My teacher showed us Troll on video when I was nine or ten as a treat. I'm not sure whether or not it was a treat for everyone else, but I really loved it. For many years I assumed that I had misremembered it, because it couldn't possibly be as weird as it was in my memory, so when I finally revisited it I was delighted to discover that it was even weirder!

    I was sure that I had written it up at Pearce's Horror Movie Reviews, but nope! I'll have to make it a priority after I'm done with Blood for Dracula. Perhaps I'll double feature it with Buechler'S Cellar Dweller!

  3. I would love to see Moriarty take on an all-out musical!

    And SERIOUSLY! I don't think I ever fully realized how weird Troll is until this go-around. It almost makes me angry that Troll 2 has sort of stolen its thunder: this one is WAY stranger and more special!

    Pearce, if you get around to Troll this month, email me the link. Shorties represent!

  4. I love this motherfucking movie! And I say this with all the enthusiasm I can muster at 10:16am on a Monday morning.

    I can't remember exactly when I saw this as a young one but it's been a re-watchable delight for me as an adult. Every oddity about it draws me in with no retro or intellectual explanation. It's just a film I enjoy as a genre fan I suppose.

    And every time I watch it, I really really want that mushroom as a pet. Mostly so it can sing to me as a motivator for my daily tasks.

  5. The mushroom pet thingy is ADORABLE! I think it's the big Bambi eyes. If only this film were a bigger hit. Then we'd have them mass marketed for office desks everywhere!

  6. I finally got my Troll review done! It's here:

  7. SWEET! I'll read and link-to tonight!