Troll 2 (1990)

TrollTroll 2 is a film that examines many serious and important issues. Like eating, living and dying. – Director Claudio Fragasso

 

And speaking of dying, dear grandpa Seth is dead. RIP. Even though it’s been six months after his funeral, the ten-year-old kid Joshua has regular meetings with his ghost in his room before bedtime. Grandpa Seth sits in a rocking chair as he tells goodnight stories about goblins and witches who turn people into trees, bushes and everything green.

 

Because you see, once upon a time there were goblins who were vegetarians, and the only way for them to eat was to turn people into everything green. But this is actually not any fairytale. Oh no, these goblins actually exist. So beware. Now, sleep tight and have a good night.

 

The brilliant idea of vegetarian goblins came from Rossella Drudi, the wife of Claudio Fragasso, who co-wrote the script. Here’s a quote from Best Worst Movie, a documentary from 2009 about the making of Troll 2:

I didn’t want to write your typical horror movie. So, I came up with a story about troll (goblins) who were vegetarians. Because at that point in my life, I had many friends who’d all become vegetarians, and it pissed me off. So I had the idea of replacing the vampires in the vampire story with vegetarians (like Duckula).

 

Only Joshua can see grandpa Seth (of course) and no one believes him. His mother has grown tired of him talking to his ghost and has a quick, serious conversation with him:

 

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Banish him, you hear, boy? And yes, this is the actual piece of dialogue that was written which Josh’s mom says to him with the most dead and soulless eyes ever, as if she was straight from The Westboro Baptist Church. Good night and sweet dreams. Brrr! I prefer the ghost of grandpa Seth, thank you very much. With a script written like this, also by two Italians with very little to no knowledge of the English language, one would assume that the whole script was written in Italian and roughly Google-translated with no corrections. In reality, the script was written in such broken English that even the actors suggested to director Claudio Fragasso that they should at least ad-lib the lines to prevent the dialogues from sounding as retarded as it did on paper. Fragasso, the maestro that he is with an ego bigger than Jupiter, flat-out refused as his script was set in stone and perfect as it was.

 

But this little flavor of absurdity we just saw here is only the very top of the iceberg of this incompetent circus of a horror movie. It gets really batshit, to say the least, and it’s the reason why Troll 2 is praised by the same audiences who almost died from laughing at modern so-bad-it’s-good-classics like The Room, Birdemic: Shock and Terror and all the films of Neil Breen.

 

Back to the film: Josh’ parents are taking him and their teen daughter Holly on a summer vacation trip to a small country, hillbilly town in the state of Utah, called … Nilbog. And the place looks like a complete ghost town which has seen better days. Grandpa Seth is still here, though, watching over Josh’s shoulders. They swap houses with a family that welcomes them with a ready dinner table. Talk about hospitality. But that’s not real food, Grandpa Seth tells Josh. It’s Goblin food which will turn anyone who eats it into vegetables – the favorite food of the goblins! Grandpa Seth displays some of his magic ghost force to stop the time for a brief moment, so Josh can prevent them eating the food. He has only ten seconds. The tension and suspense is unbearable. Josh stands on the table while the rest of the family is frozen-out, opens his zipper and – you guessed it – pisses on the food.

 

Or in Claudio Fragasso’s own frustrating words while trying to explain to a confused ten-year-old who didn’t understand the context of the scene, and who the hell could blame him:  – You don’t worry, you jump on table, you unzip zipper, we cut, piss on table!

 

Aha, okey then…

 

His dad, Michael (played by Aaron Eckhart’s doppelganger, George Hardy), gets furious and carries Josh up to his room where he delivers his famous line:

 

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And yes, this is the actual dialogue. This is also the line that George Hardy used in his audition for the film. In full seriousness, he shouted You can’t piss on hospitality in front of nine cigar-smoking Italian casting agents. And they didn’t understand a word he was saying. The only reason he got the part was because they liked his energy.

 

Like in the original film, we get introduced to a witch by the name Creedence Leonore Gielgud. And this one is from the west and as evil as a Saturday Morning Cartoon character. She lives in a small church where she brews a green, magic, toxic potion that turns people into vegetables, so she can feed her goblins.

 

Alice Cooper was apparently busy feeding his Frankenstein, so the role of the witch went to Deborah Reed. And ‘boy, her performance is a trip. I have not before or after Troll 2 seen overacting on such an absurd animated level, as we see here. It’s all up to eleven and beyond, and I bet she must have burned some calories after reading her goofy lines the way she did. I’d love to se her audition reel and the reactions of the nine cigar-smoking Italians. Reed died last year due to cancer at age 73, but she will always be remembered in her iconic role. RIP.

 

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The Oh My God clip is the most flawless piece of cinema put together. The way that the music is synchronized with his delayed scream is just perfection, not to mention the fly on the guy’s forehead. That’s Stanley Kubrick-level of perfectionism right there when it comes to subtle details with hidden meanings.

 

Then we have the creature designs, or the goblin costumes, the pure definition of schlock that even makes the creatures from the original film look like something from Stan Winston.

 

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Troll 2 was filmed during thirty chaotic hot summer days in Utah where all the cast and crew were Italians who, of course, didn’t speak English. The actors were local amateurs, the one worse than the other, and all of whom auditioned to star as extras, but somehow instead ended up in the main roles. That also explains one thing or two. Michael Paul Stephenson, who plays the annoying kid Josh, already had the (un)pleasure of starring in another film by Claudio Fragasso, with Beyond the Darknes (a.k.a La Casa 5), released the same year as Troll 2. He also made the documentary Best Worst Movie.

 

The original title was Goblin, but was released as Troll 2, because that’s what Italian distributors always do to shamelessly cash in on the success of other films.

 

Troll 2 was one of the lost gems, also called The Holy Grail of bad movies, that were rediscovered many years after its release. It wasn’t until the comedy theatre group Upright Citizens Brigade started to screen the film at their base in Los Angeles that the phenomena that was Troll 2 spread throughout the United States like a turkey on fire, and soon after globally. Then the now legendary Oh My God clip was shared on YouTube and the rest is movie history.

 

Director Claudio Fragasso was also curious about the buzz and how the Americans had finally rediscovered his masterpiece, and flew to the states with his wife to get a sense of the phenomenon. Too bad he seems to have zero sense of irony. I’d earlier had an assumption that the guy was a first-class troll (no pun intended), like Birdemic director James Nguyen, but after re-watching some clips from the documentary Best Worst Movie, I’m not so sure. The clown really believes deep down that he made a genuine solid piece of cinema with Troll 2, and during an awkward Q&A after a screening of the film he looks completely lost, confused and irritated, and is about to implode. People were laughing too much at his film, even at parts that weren’t meant to be funny. Uh-oh! And he didn’t like that. His spicy narcissism and true colors really shine at the end of the documentary where he gets jealous of the actors’ popularity, giving them the death stare and even calling them dogs and liars. Classy.

 

Troll 2

 

There are many factors why Troll 2 ended up like it did for all the wrong hilarious reasons, but the main one is on none other than Claudio Fragasso, or the pseudonym of Drake Floyd he was credited as here. It’s the typical Ed Wood syndrome, just with an even more bloated ego, pompous arrogance, insanity and a head stuffed so far in one’s own delusional fantasy-butthole while refusing to hear a single input than your own bubbling farts. And to be fair, Fragasso hardly directed the film, costume designer Laura Gemser did, the one and only on the crew that spoke English fluently and translated the director’s directions to the actors. He also looked down on having any assistance from any English-speaking crew or cast because he was too lazy to learn some of the language himself. Mamma mia. Working on the set of Troll 2 must have been such a pleasant experience. I would like to see a biopic about the making of this turkey, like The Disaster Artist. Leonardo DiCaprio would be a great fit to play Fragasso.

 

There’s far worse movies than Troll 2, surprisingly enough, and at the end of the day, Claudio Fragasso has unintentionally managed to put together one of the best unhinged horror comedies of all time (if not the best) with not a single boring moment followed by a whole notebook of quote worthy lines. That’s a great skill and an achievement in itself. And that the guy to this day seems to be ultra-bitter about the films’ cult status and never seems to come to peace with it, is a bit sad. But that’s what happens when your ego becomes your own worst enemy.

 

There wasn’t made a Troll 3… or maybe it kinda was if we use our imagination a bit. We actually have two titles that were released with a.k.a Troll 3. The first one is Quest for the Mighty Sword (1990), an Italian fantasy film by Joe D’Amato. If the alternative titles wasn’t head-scratching already, this one is also known as The Hobgoblin and Ator III: The Hobgoblin. The other one is The Crawlers (1993), also a Joe D’Amato production about killing plants and was also filmed in the same area in Utah where Troll 2 was filmed.

 

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Director: Claudio Fragasso
Writers: Rossella Drudi, Claudio Fragasso
Country & year: US, Nilbog, 1990
Actors: Michael Paul Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie Young, Robert Ormsby, Deborah Reed, Jason Wright, Darren Ewing, Jason Steadman, David McConnell, Gary Carlston, Mike Hamil
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0105643/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puppet Master II (1990)

Puppet MasterWe’re in the gloomy smoke machine-filled Shady Oaks Cemetery where the puppets pour some green liquid on André Toulon’s grave to finally resurrect their beloved master. After this atmospheric and eerie opening, we get introduced to the new characters, a group of young ghost hunters who are sent to the Bodega Inn to investigate the murder of Megan Gallagher, the wife of the previous owner.

 

One of the investigators go missing after getting kidnapped by two puppets and, ah shit, here we go again. There’s a weird side-plot with a redneck couple that lives in a shack not so far from the hotel, and they’re there only to get body counted. A soft-spoken man of mystery with a Romanian accent shows up at the hotel who looks like a mix of The Invinsible Man and Héctor from the Spanish Sci-Fi thriller Timecrimes. And who could that possibly be and why is he so interested in collecting brain tissues as people at the hotel starts to get killed? Huh.. Only Scooby-Doo would know…

 

Although this could also easily be a remake of the first one, there are some new ideas here to make some progress in the franchise which later goes more back-and-forth in the timeline. We have some flashbacks as we dip more into the lore and backstory of André Toulon and how he and his wife came across the Elixir of Life somewhere in Egypt. The characters are mostly disposable meat balloons with their own personal drama, but they’re at least far more awake and in presence than they were in the first one.

 

But the star here is the new puppet Torch which, you’ve already guessed, torches his victims to hell with a flamethrower as a hand. Totally rad! And then we have a quick classic paused movie moment with three seconds of bare tits. The kills are not to get too exited about. We have a lackluster scene with the Tunneller who drills the skull of one of the sleeping victims, some quick knifing from Blade and the only memorable one is a woman who gets burned alive by the Torch. There’s also a scene in broad daylight where some kid encounters Torch, which cuts off before he gets roasted. No dwarfs were available for body burn, I assume. Meh! Puppet Master II is overall entertaining as long as it’s going thanks to the mysterious villain, tasty gothic visuals, gloomy and light-dimming atmosphere, the puppets themselves, catchy tunes from composer Richard Band (brother of Charles Band) but otherwise, not much that will stick to the memory.

 

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Director: David Allen
Writers: Charles Band, David Pabian, David Schmoeller
Country & year: USA, 1990
Actors: Blade, Pinhead, Jester, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Torch, Djinn, Mephisto, Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Steve Welles, Greg Webb, Charlie Spradling, Jeff Celentano, Nita Talbot
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0100438/

 

Related posts: Puppet Master 4 (1993) | Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991) | Puppet Master (1989)

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Evil Eyes (1990)

Sometime in the late 80s, George A. Romero was invited to Italy to eat pasta and sip red wine with Dario Argento. The result of that meeting became Two Evil Eyes, an anthology of two films, one hour each, based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. The original idea was an anthology of four segments in which also John Carpenter and Stephen King was considered to make the other two. However, Carpenter was busy with other stuff while Stephen King, still and forever traumatized by the experience with Maximum Overdrive, had no desire to call himself a “moron” a second time, and thus Four Evil Eyes got reduced to Two Evil Eyes.

 

THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR – George A. Romero

The millionaire Ernest Valdemar is on his deathbed in his big mansion suffering from terminal illness, and his younger and gold-digging wife Jessica and Dr. Robert Hoffman have a plan: to hypnotize Valdemar into signing the will papers so they can get away with all his money. During the last hypnosis session, things go horribly wrong and the old man dies … well, sort of. They hide him in the freezer in the basement while Valdemar seems to be trapped in hypnosis and moans with a ghoulish voice that a bunch of demons will take over his body.

 

George A. Romero were on hiatus during most of the 90s where he made only two films; The Dark Half and this one. Instead of tons of gore, we get a slow build-up and an eerie atmosphere where Creepshow meets Tales From the Crypt. Even though the story itself is intriguing, Romero’s direction feels as stale as if it was meant to be made for TV, and the runtime could have been cut down to thirty minutes. The scenes with Jessica and Dr. Robert is as dry and boring as a soap opera, and with even stiffer acting than Valdemar in the freezer. As already mentioned though the atmosphere is great, and Tom Savini, who worked on both segments, provides with some top-notch prosthetic makeup and a memorable death-scene.

 

THE BLACK CAT – Dario Argento

We follow the crime-photographer Rod Usher (Harvey Keitel) who documents the most brutal crime-scenes in Pittsburgh, George Romeo’s hometown of all places. Rod is a cold psychopath with a distant relationship with his empathic girlfriend Annabelle. As she feels ignored, she gets some comfort in a stray black cat. The cat hates Rod and he hates the cat back and as the classic story goes, he kills the cat who then starts to haunt him until he descends into complete madness.

 

The Black Cat is one of Poe’s most famous works, and this film adaptation is made in modern times where a crime-scene photographer has been replaced with the author himself, Poe. Harvey Keitel is the money shot here, alongside with FX maker Tom Savini, and the only reason alone to give Two Evil Eyes a watch, to be honest. Argento’s segment is also far more stylish, better paced, better acted and of course more graphic.

 

So, there you have it. Two short horror tales from two directors with their own style of filmmaking and approach to storytelling. And some with more meat on the bone than the other.  For HD buffs, the film is available on 4K Ultra HD from Vingar Syndrome.

 

Two Evil Eyes

 

Directors: George A. Romero, Dario Argento
Writers: George A. Romero, Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, Peter Koper
Original title: Due occhi diabolici
Country & year: Italy, USA, 1990
Actors: Adrienne Barbeau, Ramy Zada, Bingo O’Malley, Jeff Howell, E.G. Marshall, Harvey Keitel, Madeleine Potter, John Amos, Sally Kirkland, Kim Hunter, Holter Graham, Martin Balsam, Chuck Aber
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0100827/

 

Tom Ghoul