Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: John Carl Buechler (story)
Ed Naha (screenplay)
Produced by: Charles Band
Starring: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Sonny Bono, Brad Hall, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Sandy, Phil Fondacaro, Anne Lockhart, and June Lockhart
If you’d told me yesterday that I would be watching Troll and doing a review, I would have asked you to lay off the prescription pain killers. I saw this so-called film on video in the mid 1980s and found it to be disappointing to say the least. I had been looking for a horror film along the lines of Goulies (another pre-Full Moon guilty pleasure from Charles Band). It turned out to be a silly, modern-day Fantasy about a boy, his sister, a witch, and an evil troll that wants to turn the world into his own dark fairyland. However, as I was flipping through channels this morning (As usual, I pay a huge amount for cable and often there are 150 channels of nothing!), I happened across this forgotten relic in letterbox format. I said to myself, “Of all the movies in the world, they’re showing this in widescreen? I’ll just watch a bit of it.” Famous last words. Before I knew it, I was having so much fun that I had actually watched the entire film.
Noah Hathaway plays Harry Potter (I’m not kidding), a teenager who moves into a new apartment building with his parents (Michael Moriarty and Shelley Hack) and his kid sister Wendy (Jenny Beck). Before they can unpack the first box, Wendy goes into the basement (When will they ever learn?) and meets Torok the Troll (Phil Fondacaro). The evil little being takes her form and begins going from apartment to apartment—turning tenants into pulsating cocoons that break open to release stop-motion vines and Muppet fairy folk. Only with the help of a centuries old witch (June Lockhart [old] and Anne Lockhart [young]) can Harry hope to stop this evil from taking over the apartment building and then the world.
John Carl Buechler and frequent Starlog magazine writer Ed Naha’s script is ripe with humor both intentional and unintentional. The casting is a who’s who of television past withLaw & Order’s Michael Moriarty, Saturday Night Live stars (and future husband and wife) Brad Hall and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, WKRP’s Gary Sandy, and the late great Sony Bono. Bono has the honor of being the troll’s first victim. We get to watch him scream in agony, puff up like a balloon, and turn into a wrinkled pod. Speaking of the effects, aside from the nice troll makeup, they are anything put special. Lockhart has a talking mushroom on her table and you can actually see the tablecloth rise as the performer works it from below. The other fairyfolk are puppets of the lowest order and what little movement they have alternates between jerky and floppy. Despite its many, many flaws, the film has a charm about it that draws you in and keeps you watching. The phrase “so bad it’s good” may be a cliché, but I can think of none better to describe it. At one point, for no apparent reason, Moriarty turns up the stereo and begins an extended air guitar and dance routine that will have you rolling on the floor and shaking your head at the same time.
For some, this is a bit of cinematic sludge from the 80’s that should be forgotten. I say, if you have 82 minutes to kill, there are far worse things you could do than watch Troll. Whether you’re laughing with it or at it, I can guarantee you will be laughing.
3 out of 5 stars for humor (intentional and unintentional)
2.5 out of 5 overall