Going back to before trolls discovered the Internet

When 1986 film Troll hit cable, I wasn’t a huge fan because it was essentially horror-lite, bordering on fantasy. 4 years later when Troll 2 hit video, I was breaking into my 20s and working at the video store, which is probably where I vaguely watched it on the TV in the background as I helped customers. Because honestly, despite it somehow garnering a huge cult following and its own documentary over the years for being the best worst movie ever made, I couldn’t remember a thing about it. Now, 30 years later, I re-visit both of them.

TROLL (1986)

It’s not shocking that Charles Band was behind the scenes executive producing this film; it very much foreshadows the template he would use on his Full Moon films throughout the 1990s. At the same time, it has that PG-13 kiddie movie feel, right down to the Spielberg-esque storybook opening. Even director John Carl Buechner (Friday the 13th VII, Ghoulies Go To College, Cellar Dweller, Watchers 4, Miner’s Massacre) is notably restrained with the horror moments here.

For me, this should be as much the cult classic the sequel has become. In fact, I’d say this is more a candidate for best worst movie ever made than the sequel.

For starters, there’s the cast: Charlies’ Angel Shelley Hack and 80s horror king Michael Moriarity are the parents. The boy from The Never Ending Story is the son. The little girl who played rapidly growing alien-human hybrid Elizabeth on V is the daughter. The neighbors include Sonny Bono, Gary Sandy of WKRP in Cincinnati (I was so hot for his tight jeans as a kid), Julia Louise-Dreyfus, and Lassie’s mom June Lockhart. Plus, Charles Band’s Full Moon staple Phil Fondacaro plays a neighbor and the Troll.

The plot is ridiculously 80s awesome at first.

The daughter runs into the troll in the basement of their apartment building, and he drags her to another dimension while he takes her form and starts acting like a brat…and using his magic ring to turn victims into little mythological critters that hang out in an apartment he transforms into a fuzzy green garden.

The adults are secondary characters, as it is the boy who knows his sister is no longer herself and turns to the only person who will believe him—Lassie’s mom, who is a witch.

It’s up to her to use her magic staff to help him defeat the troll and get his sister back…in the other dimension…where there’s a big monster.

Despite becoming more fantasy than horror, which usually isn’t my thing, Troll is a perfect slice of eighties crap, so I can’t help but love it.

But the most notable movie magic factor of this film? Both father and son are named…Harry Potter. Mind blown.

TROLL 2 (1990)

Now that I’ve sat down and actually paid attention to Troll 2, it astounds me that it has been postured as a so-bad-it’s-good movie. In my opinion, aside from a few cheesy details I’ll get into, this is a better movie than the original and as darkly weird and fucked up as most 80s Euro horror of the era. It’s the horror movie the first Troll isn’t.

That’s because Italian director Claudio Fragasso is no stranger to the subgenre. His films include Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror, Monster Dog, Scalps, Zombie 3, Zombie 4, Beyond Darkness, and Night Killer. And this is the moment when I should have had a V8, because I just realized that I am a huge fan of his films and have every single one of them in my collection. Therefore, it’s no surprise I adore Troll 2 and in no way think it deserves a negative-positive cult following.

The truth is, Troll 2 was not meant to be a sequel to the original, despite there being so many parallels between the two films. The creatures this time are “goblins”, but the monster designs are so similar to the creatures in the original that you would swear it’s intentional. Personally, I’m shocked that once the studio decided to push this as a Troll sequel, they didn’t just have the actors come and dub in the word “troll” each of the few times they say “goblin” in the film. Hell, a few bad dubs would have made this feel even more like the Euro horror it is.

As for the plot, it’s essentially The Howling or Salem’s Lot with goblins. A family comes to a vacation home in a small town, and the son begins to realize that all the locals are actually a secret community of goblins in disguise, and their goal is to turn any humans into plants that they can then eat (what’s wrong with all the great plants we already have on the planet?).

Now, while in the first film the troll—who also disguised himself as human—didn’t eat people, he did in fact turn one victim into an entire garden that all the other mythological creatures inhabited.

This film also begins with a storybook opening. They boy’s grandfather reads him a tale of the goblins. However, grandpa isn’t actually there. He died a few months before, and his ghost comes to visit the boy regularly.

Honestly, if I were 12 and not 21 when I saw this film, I would have been scared witless. The little boy has horrific dreams and visions of turning into an oozing plant.

The locals have a mark on their skin and are eerily Let’s Scare Jessica to Death in their cold, emotionless staring. The goblins relentlessly terrorize the boy. And they really do transform humans into ooey-gooey greenery to devour. Plus, the ending is surprisingly dark for a movie focusing on a little terrified boy.

Even so, there are plenty of campy oddball comic moments between all the sinister stuff. I couldn’t get enough of the 80s montage of the sister’s bedroom—a Smurf on a shelf, posters of Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise, the sister dressed in her best Jane Fonda workout outfit…

There’s the moment when grandpa suggests the boy pee on food the goblins offered to the family…

And just as in the first film, there’s a witch. Her performance is horribly cartoonish and over the top for a majority of the film, and she plays right to the camera at times, totally breaking the fourth wall.

But when she gets to transform into a darker version of herself at the end, she’s deliciously creepy. Yet that’s when we get another bizarre Euro horror scene. She seduces a young man with corn on the cob…which begins to turn into popcorn once they start getting it on. Where’s the melted butter when you need it?

The popping corn is definitely a jarring slice of absurdity just when the film reaches its climax, which has the family doing a séance to summon grandpa for more help as the goblins fricking infiltrate the house to get them! Yeah, this one definitely would have freaked 12-year old me out, while the first film might as well have been another Never Ending Story sequel.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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