Today’s movie is a little flick called Troll, starring Michael Moriarty and Sonny Bono.
The writer for Troll was Ed Naha, who also wrote the screenplays for films like Dolls, Dollman, Omega Doom, and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the CHUD.
Troll was directed by John Carl Buechler, who was also behind such films as Ghoulies Go To College, The Eden Formula, and Friday the 13th Part VII. He has also worked extensively as an effects artist on low budget films like Piranha, Robot Jox, Dolls, From Beyond, Carnosaur, and The Gingerdead Man.
The cinematographer on Troll was Romano Albani, who most notably shot the film TerrorVision, as well as Dario Argento’s Inferno.
The editor for Troll was Lee Percy, who has cut such films as The Ice Harvest, Boys Don’t Cry, The Believer, Dolls, From Beyond, and Re-Animator over his career.
The producers for Troll were Albert Band, Charles Band, and Debra Dion, who were all heavily involved with the production company, Empire Pictures. Empire was Charles Band’s initial independent company that existed throughout the 1980s, prior to the creation of the more recognizable Full Moon Entertainment. The outfit also produced films like Trancers, Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, and Robot Jox, and laid the foundations for a number of Full Moon franchises.
The makeup effects supervisor on Troll was John Vulich, an eventual Emmy winning effects artist who would work on acclaimed television series like Babylon 5, The X-Files, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The creature creation for Troll was done by the director himself, John Carl Beuchler. The rest of the team included Brent Armstrong (Hollow Man, It’s Alive 3, Starship Troopers, In The Mouth of Madness), Howard Berger (Evil Dead 2, Maniac Cop 3, Scream, The Faculty, Kill Bill), R. Christopher Biggs (Super Mario Bros., Hudson Hawk, Teen Wolf), Everett Burrell (Aliens, DeepStar Six, Castle Freak), Gino Crognale (The Spirit, From Beyond, 976-EVIL, Django Unchained), and Mitch Devane (Dolls, From Beyond, Captain America).
The visual effects team for Troll was made up of Jim Aupperle (Evil Dead 2, Beetlejuice, RoboCop 3, Dollman, Son of the Mask), James Belohovek (Robot Jox, Leviathan, Evolver, RoboCop 3, Dollman), Steve Burg (Robot Jox, Leviathan, Chopping Mall, Waterworld, Interstellar), Linda Drake (From Beyond, Dr. Alien, The Smurfs 2, Chopping Mall), Kevin Kutchaver (Robot Jox, RoboCop 3, Last Action Hero, Blade, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Shoot Em Up), Len Morganti (School Spirit, Argo, Robot Jox, RoboCop 3, Blind Fury, True Believer), and Martine Tomczyk (Super Mario Bros., Apollo 13, The Last Dragon), as well as a handful of others.
The musical score for Troll was done by Richard Band, Charles Band’s brother. He has famously provided music to movies like Re-Animator, Castle Freak, The Pit and The Pendulum, and Laserblast.
The cast for Troll features a number of recognizable faces, including Michael Moriarty (It’s Alive 3, The Stuff, Q, Law & Order), Sonny Bono (The Sonny and Cher Show, Hairspray), Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story), Shelley Hack (Charlie’s Angels), Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Seinfeld), and June Lockhart (Lost in Space, Lassie).
The plot of Troll centers around a young family who is moving into a new home in a San Francisco apartment complex. Unbeknownst to them, however, an evil, magical troll also calls the complex home, and has sinister plans for the new tenants. The young Harry Potter, Jr. teams up with a friendly local witch in an attempt to save his sister, who is captured by the troll as the family is moving in.
Troll has received increased attention in recent years thanks to the cult popularity of the pseudo-sequel, Troll 2, directed by Claudio Fragasso. Troll 2 is widely considered one of the elite good-bad movies of all time, and even inspired a documentary about it called Best Worst Movie. However, despite some debate on the point, Troll 2 doesn’t have any direct official connection to Troll, nor does it actually feature trolls at all in the film.
Two of the central characters in Troll bear the name Harry Potter, which is of course now the title of a phenomenally popular book and movie franchise. However, the books wouldn’t be written for another handful of years, leading some to wonder if J.K. Rowling took the name from this movie.
The reception to Troll was overwhelmingly poor. It currently has a 4.2 score on IMDb, along with ratings of 29% (critics) and 28% (audience) on Rotten Tomatoes.
Troll had an estimated production budget of just over $1 million. It managed to gross roughly $5.5 million domestically in its theatrical run, making it a profitable low-budget feature in spite of the poor reception.
Troll features, without any doubt, one of the most aggravatingly annoying child actors I have ever seen in a movie. For most of the movie, the little girl character is possessed by the troll, so she has to act like an evil character in disguise. Frankly, it is unbearable whenever she starts growling or trying to be scary.
Michael Moriarty, as always, is delightfully eccentric and goofy in Troll. He isn’t quite as memorable as he was in Q: The Winged Serpent or The Stuff, but he has some solid moments in here despite not having a whole lot of screen time. Likewise, Sonny Bono plays a great scummy neighbor during his brief presence in the film, before he turns into a weird plant-thing.
There were far more pop culture references than I expected in this movie, to such name brand products as Star Trek and Godzilla. I assume this was an intentional touch by Ed Naha, who seems to enjoy inserting humor and self-awareness into his movie scripts. Speaking of which, there are some genuinely funny moments in this movie: I am particularly fond of the fake movie clips that show up in the background.
“That may look like your canary, Tweety, my dear… It may sing like Tweety, it may molt like Tweety…but your canary is a pod person from the planet Mars.”
The climax of the movie features some really dated lightning effects that are impossible not to remark on. I am sure it looked at least ok at the time, but it is pretty hilarious to watch these outdated visual effects now.
The troll itself isn’t particularly menacing, and something about the costume just seems unwieldy and awkward. It honestly makes Warwick Davis in the Leprechaun franchise look genuinely frightening by comparison. Even worse is that the smaller troll creatures look vastly different, and amazingly look even cheaper than the central troll.
Overall, Troll isn’t an elite bad movie, particularly when compared to its pseudo-sequel. However, there is plenty to enjoy here between the bad effects, hammy acting, ludicrous plot, and troll-singing. It would be worth a recommendation based on Sonny Bono’s death scene and Michael Moriarty’s presence on their own, let alone all of the other nonsense going on in this film. For bad movie aficionados, this is a must-see.
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