Troll rev

Troll  (1986)    Empire/Fantasy-Horror-Comedy    RT: 82 minutes    Rated PG-13 (language, violence, some innuendo)    Director: John Carl Buechler    Screenplay: Ed Naha    Music: Richard Band    Cinematography: Romano Albani    Release date: January 17, 1986 (US)    Cast: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Jenny Beck, Sonny Bono, Phil Fondacaro, Brad Hall, Anne Lockhart, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Sandy.    Box Office: $5.4 million (US)



 What’s there NOT to like about Troll, a low-budget hybrid of fantasy, light horror and dark comedy directed by makeup artist John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood). Look what it has to offer. It has a cast roster that reads like a Love Boat passenger manifest (Sonny Bono is in it, for Pete’s sake!). It has cheap special effects that actually look really good. It has not one but two characters named Harry Potter, the younger of whom even performs a little magic. Of course, there’s no way Buechler and writer Ed Naha could have prefigured a certain boy wizard that would come into existence via J.K. Rowling’s first book in 1997. With all this cool stuff in it, it’s hard to resist a movie as deliriously silly as Troll.

troll poster I didn’t see Troll at the movies. Like every Empire title, it didn’t open at a theater near me. They all played at the theater in Wayne I mentioned in my review of Ghoulies. You know, the one frequented by the cadets from Valley Forge Military Academy. It was just too far to travel for a movie that would likely be on home video in a few months time (it was). The same went for Eliminators and TerrorVision. I rented Troll the day it came out and totally enjoyed it. As a connoisseur of junky movies, I instinctively knew it would be a fun one. I think I actually watched it twice before returning it the next day.

 The trouble begins shortly after the Potter family moves into their new apartment in San Francisco. The daughter Wendy (Beck, Tightrope) gets possessed by an ugly troll while playing in the laundry room. Immediately after, she starts behaving like a feral child much to the dismay of her family- dad Harry Sr. (Moriarty, Q), mom Anne (Hack, The Stepfather) and older brother Harry Jr. (Hathaway, The NeverEnding Story). Only her brother knows that it’s more than the stress of moving that’s gotten into her.

 Meanwhile, Wendy starts visiting their new neighbors and transforming them into mythical creatures by way of a magic ring. The building’s other tenants are wannabe ladies man Peter (singer Bono), gung-ho ex-Marine Barry (Sandy, WKRP in Cincinnati), young couple Jeanette and William (real-life couple Dreyfus and Hall of SNL fame), diminutive lit professor Malcolm (Fondacaro, Ghoulies II) and Eunice St. Clair (June Lockhart, Lost in Space) who turns out to be a witch who’s been waiting a long time for this to happen. A VERY long time, in fact. She used to be engaged to a powerful wizard named Torok who was turned into the troll that’s now terrorizing the building as punishment for starting a war between the two realms of the world, magical and non-magical.

 The plot of Troll is completely nonsensical but I can overlook that since it’s such an enjoyable flick. Plus, the actors look like they’re having a great time. They’re all in on the joke; they know the picture is a complete goof. 11-year-old Beck devours her role, along with a lot of “rat burgers with the works” (really gross-looking hamburgers), with complete reckless abandon. The elder Lockhart brings a measure of dignity to the proceedings. Only a consummate professional can deliver such silly dialogue with a straight face. Bono and Sandy really camp it up in their respective roles. Moriarty is especially good as the dad. He has this one scene where he jams to Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues” played at top volume. Hathaway is also good as the younger Harry Potter who teams up with Eunice to defeat Torok and rescue his little sister. He mistakenly believes she’s a “pod person from the planet Mars”; he gets that from an old sci-fi movie he watches on TV.

 I like the creature effects (also by Buechler) in Troll very much. It’s a combination of puppetry and Fondacaro in a troll costume. The other special effects are good too. It’s like I always say, there’s a lot to be said for cheap practical effects. Am I alone in thinking they’re more convincing than CGI? I can’t be; I’m sure somebody must share my opinion. Am I also alone in my affection for movies from Empire Pictures? When you think about it, they’re actually quite good. There’s a certain purity in form to them. They look more polished than the average low-budget flick. They’re well-made for the types of movies they are. Nobody involved takes any of it seriously. Most of them are great goofball fun. Troll falls neatly into that category. It’s a guilty pleasure in its truest form.

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