Tag Archives: michael moriarty

Troll

Troll

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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).

trollone6The 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).

trollone2The 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.

troll22Two 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.

trollone4Michael 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.

trollone3There 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.

trollone7“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.

trollone8The 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.

trollone5Overall, 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.

Larry Cohen Collection: “The Stuff”

The Stuff

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Next up in the Larry Cohen Spotlight is perhaps my favorite of all of his films: the campy consumerism satire, “The Stuff.”

“The Stuff” was written, directed, and co-produced by Larry Cohen, in cooperation with his production collaborators Paul Kurta (“Q,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Hell On Weels,” “Veronica Mars”) and Barry Shils (“Special Effects,” “It’s Alive III”).

The makeup effects for “The Stuff” are credited to a team including Ed French (“Creepshow 2,” “C.H.U.D.,” “Paul Blart Mall Cop,” “Dragonball: Evolution”), Michael Maddi (“The Blob,” “Saturday Night Live”), Steve Neill (“God Told Me To,” “It’s Alive III,” “Q,” “Laserblast,” “Full Moon High,” “Battle Beyond The Stars”), Rick Stratton (“Class of 1999,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Galaxy Quest”), and Craig Lyman (“Winter’s Tale,” “The Happening,” “The Cotton Club”).

The special effects work is credited to one Bret Culpepper, who worked on other productions such as “Re-Animator,” “The Beastmaster,” and “Back to the Future Part III” as a special effects worker and technical advisor.

The visual effects team for “The Stuff” comprised of David Allen (“Robot Jox,” “Dolls,” “Q,” “Laserblast”), Jim Danforth (“The Prophecy,” “Ninja III: The Domination,” “The Thing”), Jim Doyle (“Showgirls,” “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” “A Nightmare On Elm Street”), Paul Gentry (“Space Truckers,” “RoboCop 3,” “Predator 2”), John Lambert (“Soultaker”), David Stipes (“Real Genius,” “Night of the Creeps,” “Arena”), and Ted Rae (“Lawnmower Man 2,” “Jaws 3-D,” “Night of the Comet”).

thestuff2 thestuff3 thestuff5The cinematography on “The Stuff” was provided by Paul Glickman, who also acted as director of photography on Larry Cohen movies “God Told Me To” and “Special Effects.”

“The Stuff” was edited by Armond Lebowitz, who also cut the Larry Cohen movies “Q: The Winged Serpent,” “Special Effects,” and “Full Moon High.”

thestuff6The stunt coordinator on “The Stuff” was Jery Hewitt, who has worked on a diversity of films such as “The Big Lebowski,” “Fargo,” “Christmas Evil,” “Michael Clayton,” “No Country For Old Men,” and “Cop Out.”

The cast for “The Stuff” is headlined by frequent Larry Cohen collaborator Michael Moriarty, with additional roles filled out by Garret Morris (“Saturday Night Live”), James Dixon (“It’s Alive”), Andrea Marcovicci (“The Hand”), Paul Sorvino (“Goodfellas,” “Repo! The Genetic Opera”), Danny Aiello (“Hudson Hawk,” “Moonstruck”), and Patrick O’Neal (“Under Siege”). In the background, you might spot recognizable faces like Eric Bogosian (“Special Effects”), Abe Vigoda (“The Godfather”), Patrick Dempsey (“Loverboy,” “Scream 3”), Laurene Landon (“Maniac Cop,” “Maniac Cop 2,” “It’s Alive III”), Brooke Adams (“The Dead Zone,” “Days of Heaven”), and Mira Sorvino (“Mimic,” “Mighty Aphrodite”).

thestuff8The story of “The Stuff” surrounds a mysterious dessert that takes the consumer world by storm, thus throwing the established dessert industry into a panic. They collectively hire a former intelligence agent named Mo Rutherford to investigate the product and discover the secret recipe via corporate espionage. As the covert investigation proceeds, however, “The Stuff” becomes increasingly eerie, suspicious, and dangerous. After a series of team-ups with a disgruntled mascot, a paramilitary organization, and an orphaned child, Rutherford decides to take The Stuff head on.

“The Stuff” features some really interesting effects work, including a bedroom attack by the stuff that pays homage to “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” even using the exact same effects room for the shot.

The Stuff itself was made up of an assortment of materials depending on the scene: ice cream, yogurt, fire extinguishing foam, and a wretched fish bone-meal concoction were all used at one point or another, and some of the shots are even superimposed animation.

thestuff10Arsenio Hall was apparently considered for the role of Chocolate Chip Charlie, which ultimately went to “Saturday Night Live” alum Garrett Morris.

There was an extensive copyright dispute over the effects used in “The Stuff,” which led to a lengthy legal battle (Effects Associates, Inc v Cohen) that set significant precedence for the ownership of effects work done for films, and is actually a pretty interesting read for anyone with a cursory interest in copyright law.

The reception for “The Stuff” was somewhat mixed: it currently holds Rotten Tomatoes scores of 70% (critics) and 45% (audience), with an IMDb rating of 5.9. “The Stuff” was made on a $1.7 million budget, and received only a limited theatrical release with an undisclosed total gross. However, it has certainly become a cult classic thanks to effects, acting, and bizarrely humorous plot.

As with many of Cohen’s films, “The Stuff” provides a significant element of social commentary, particularly about consumerism and the food industry. There is even a specific call-out in the dialogue about the fact that the recipe for Coca-Cola is kept secret, and no one seems to care.

thestuff9The effects work on “The Stuff” is often mocked for its ridiculousness, but I actually though that it was pretty impressive work given the low budget on the film. Sure, it is definitely squibby and cheesy, but it certainly got the job done on budget. Apart from some dated super-imposed effects, the film still looks pretty good, thanks in large part to the extensive use of practical effects.

thestuff4The plot of “The Stuff” becomes very similar to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as it progresses, with many people being replaced or possessed by the nefarious dessert treat. Larry Cohen would later co-write his own version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with 1993’s “Body Snatchers,” ultimately directed by Abel Ferrara.

The performances in “The Stuff” are distinctly and astoundingly over the top, particularly on the parts of Moriarty, Sorvino, and Morris. I absolutely adore Moriarty’s southern-fried pseudo-buffoon ex-intelligence agent, and even the child actor gets to go over the top with his infamous grocery store freak-out:

Overall, “The Stuff” is probably one of my favorite films, and is just about the pinnacle of what a good-bad movie can be. The performances, effects, and writing are all spot on, and create what is almost a Platonic ideal of a b-movie. It should go without saying, but “The Stuff” is a solid recommend from me for just about everyone. It is clever, funny, sharp, goofy, and just the right amount of gory.