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Blu-ray Review: Troll 2 – The 20th Anniversary Nilbog Edition

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Back in 2008, when the Gorgon Video label reemerged from the ashes of seemingly-defunct distributors to unleash the original Faces Of Death on Blu-ray, it appeared that the once-illustrious scene of High Def releases had received a bitch-slap to the face. No longer was the world of HD home video content with releasing nothing but movies from the so-called “A-List” category: this was a Z-Grade shockumentary receiving the ultimate treatment in audio and video excellence. I, for one, was enthralled by such a release. I love exploitation movies, plain and simple. Show me a movie with an abundance of blood and breasts, and I’m as happy as a clam.

But not even the stomach-churning sight of several grisly deaths (both real and fake alike) can compare to the release of a movie like Troll 2 hitting Blu-ray.

Long hailed by cult-movie lovers everywhere as one of the greatest bad movies ever, the Italian-made Troll 2 is the kind of movie that, in all probability, should have been axed long before anyone even had the idea to make it.

As the ‘80s came to an end, Italy’s era of B-movie filmmaking also began to wane. The bloody giallo movies, bullet-ridden poliziotteschi films, and flesh-eating zombie flicks that provided John Saxon with years of steady work were all going the way of the dodo. But that didn’t stop the Italians from flying over to Utah in 1989 to shoot an ultra-bizarre “fantasy/horror/kiddie (?)” film wherein a village-full of vegetarian goblins were turning their hapless human victims into plants and eating them: a little brain-dead ditty called Troll 2.

The man that is generally held to be responsible for this disaster of a motion picture is one Claudio Fragasso. To regular viewers of schlocky Italian cinema, his name is not an unknown one: Fragasso worked as a writer and/or director for several horrifically mind-numbing films in the ‘80s and ‘90s (usually with the late Bruno Mattei — another filmmaker whose name is commonly associated with pain), including a couple of laughably-bad flesh-eating zombie entries (Hell Of The Living Dead, Zombi 3, and After Death) the crap-tastic Predator/RoboCop hybrid Robowar, and the epically awful Terminator/Aliens rip-off, Shocking Dark.

After arriving in Utah with his crew (including producer Joe D‘Amato and costume designer Laura Gemser), writer/director Fragasso — who is credited under the pseudonym Drake Floyd in Troll 2’s credits — wrangled up a bunch of locals to star in his movie. Most of them weren’t actors to begin with, nor did they probably fancy themselves to be such. A few other performers, on the other hand, had “Community Theater Rejects” written all over them. Normally, a film inhabited entirely by non-actors and wannabes would be enough for a film to earn a special niche in the annals of Bad Cinema forever; but Fragasso (who really didn’t speak any English, as did most of his crew) went the extra mile and insisted that his performers read his lines verbatim — no matter how truly awkward the dialogue came out sounding.

Is that enough to make a movie bad? Well, yes, of course it is. But there are other aspects of Troll 2 that up the ante of inferiority here exponentially. Take, for example, the glorious contributions from the special effects department, such as goofy latex masks that barely move, and numerous buckets of chlorophyll-green goo that were used in abundance. Then there’s the music score, wherein a couple of synthesizer themes are repeated ad nasueam.

But it’s the fine acting here that makes Troll 2 worth the price of admission (whatever it may be). Scenes such as the sultry Deborah Reed (who plays the goblin’s queen — or something to that effect) overacting to infinity and Darren Ewing’s classic “Oh, my God!” moment (which has become a legend on YouTube) would normally warrant a cold hard facepalm, but the on-screen embarrassment is so contagious that you can’t help but enjoying it to no end. The same also applies to Connie Young’s dance routine, which rivals even that of Crispin Glover’s in Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter.

Originally known by its far more appropriate title, Goblins, Troll 2 was one of many Italian-made “sequels” to (mostly) American-made movies that bore little or no resemblance to their predecessors. In the case of Troll 2, the movie was re-named to cash in on what little success the 1986 film Troll had enjoyed, which probably caused a great deal of confusion amongst the small handful of people that had the misfortune of seeing it the first time around — especially considering that there’s nary a trace of troll anywhere in the damn movie.

Of course, any confusion said patrons may have experienced over the whole “troll” versus “goblin” matter were no doubt quickly washed away once they realized how truly awful Troll 2 is. In fact, I find it extremely unlikely that there is a single soul in the entire universe that could sit through Troll 2 without feeling their IQ shrink like a scrotum in ice water. Oddly enough, though, it’s Troll 2’s unique style of ineptitude that has caused the film to become a cult favorite in the last twenty years: an unexpected surge in popularity that forced former child star Michael Stephenson (who portrays the film’s adolescent hero) to make an award-winning documentary about the making of the film (and its present cult status), Best Worst Movie.

For reasons that will probably remain unknown until the very end of time (although it‘s most likely attributable to the success of Best Worst Movie), MGM decided to release Troll 2 on Blu-ray. So what can we expect with this High Def release of such a Low Brow feature? Well, while the word “perfection” hardly comes to mind here, this 1080p/AVC transfer is nevertheless impressive. The film stock that Troll 2 was photographed on to begin with was pretty budget-oriented stuff, but MGM’s Blu-ray presents a level of sharpness and clarity that was unfathomable in the previous SD-DVD release. Colors appear a bit on the muted side, with skintones looking somewhat pale (or maybe that’s just the way the people in Utah look, I dunno), while other colors — especially all those icky shades of green — pop out more than ever.

Accompanying the HD transfer of the film is a new-and-improved (?) DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Seeing as how the movie’s original audio mix was done in good ol’ mono, the new DTS-HD track is a definite improvement. Although the rear speakers remain relatively docile during the whole of the feature, there are several moments wherein the mix really shines through, whether it be some birds in the background or just the weird low-tone heard in various spots. Also on hand here is the original mono stereo soundtrack, and several subtitle options: English (SDH), Spanish, and French.

Although some interviews with cast and/or crew would’ve been a great addition to this “20th Anniversary Nilbog Edition,” Troll 2 doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of special features except for the original International trailer of the film, which is presented in HD. The set also comes with a Standard-Def DVD of the film.

As a side note to those of you who are interested in some non-exclusive bonus material, you’ll be pleased to know that Best Worst Movie is due out on video in November. Additionally, former Mystery Science Theater 3000 host Michael J. Nelson has a special comedy commentary track available for download at rifftrax.com, and there’s a wonderful interview with the Goblin Queen herself, “actress” Deborah Reed, that you can listen to at blogtalkradio.com.

All in all, Troll 2 is nothing short of an intellect-shortening masterpiece: an incompetently made feature depicting some of the worst performances this side of the Twilight franchise. It’s a film that dares you to keep watching it — all the while forcing you to wonder whether or not you’ve just suffered a psychotic break.

And, frankly, that’s what makes it so enjoyable. Why, just take a look at Darren Ewing’s fine moment of acting here and see for yourself…

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
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