What's the shittiest movie ever made? My vote goes to Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion but in recent years the top spot on the stinker list (with a zero per cent rating on rottentomatoes.com) belongs to 1990's Troll 2, an ultra-B-Grade flick about vegetarian goblins that terrorize a happy family on vacation. Working with a "flexible" script and a cast of third-rate community theatre actors, mental patients and little people in burlap sacks, Italian director Claudio Fragasso, with broken English and an old-school tough-love attitude, crafted a film so mind-bogglingly random and utterly terrible that somehow it's totally genius.
At least that's the premise of Best Worst Movie, which plays at the Village 8 theatres at 9:15 p.m. Friday as part of the Whistler Film Festival. First time director Michael Paul Stephenson actually starred in Troll 2 at age ten, and after years of embarrassment (child-starring in history's crappiest movie doesn't really get you laid in high school) he eventually discovered a silver lining.
"I started getting these MySpace messages," Stephenson says, "and pictures of kids throwing Troll 2 parties in their basements and I became fascinated with how a movie we had all hoped would just go away had somehow found it's own audience with no marketing or hype or anything, and people were absolutely in love with it."
Four years later, Best Worst Movie is a compelling glimpse into a world of film fanaticism where audience participation reigns supreme and, somehow, the holy grail is a flick wherein a kid's dead grandfather stops time so the kid can piss on his family's dinner table, thus saving them from eating chlorophyll-laced goblin-food and growing leaves and branches out of their limbs.
"It's been amazing," says Stephenson, who filmed fellow cast member and fan favourite George Hardy as he attended dozens of late-night sold-out screenings, conventions and Troll 2 circle jerks all over the western hemisphere.
"One of the things we set out to do was celebrate the communal nature of watching a film together," Stephenson says. "It seems like these days, with social networking and technology, it's easy to be disconnected from actual people. But in these fantastic old mom-and-pop theatres the rooms were full of nothing but positivity and people enjoying themselves. It was through the roof."
George Hardy, now a dentist in small-town Alabama, exudes charm and personality reminiscent of a modern day Bruce Campbell but he gave up on acting after Troll 2 and part of the joy of Best Worst Movie lies in watching him attain and embrace his status as a "cult luminary" before eventually realizing the difference between fame and infamy. Virtually ignored at a horror festival in Texas, George's discomfort is obvious. "Only about five per cent of these people floss," he tsk tsks.
Another highlight of Stephenson's film is how Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso defend his film. Best or worst, a film has to move you Fragasso states.
"It took a lot of bravery for him to make that film," Stephenson says. "To come from Italy to Utah to work with no-name actors on a movie about vegetarian goblins... Troll 2 fails in all aspects but it doesn't fail to entertain. Whether it is intentional or not, I don't think it matters."
Best Worst Movie and Troll 2 are like pie and ice cream - great alone, but fantastic together. Troll 2 is available on DVD. Best Worst Movie plays Friday night at the Village 8.
But don't stop there. Check out fourteen of my other best bets for the Whistler Film Festival:
Whistler Film Festival -Feet's picks.
The Whistler Film Fest always brings in top-notch stuff and really you can't go wrong no matter what you see but the following flicks are the ones that jumped out at me this year. See ya there.
The Trotsky stars Canadian actor Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Fanboys, Tropic Thunder) as a Montreal high schooler who believes he's the re-incarnation of famous Russian shit disturber Leon Trotsky. Shit disturbing and high school go hand in hand and Baruchel has the skills to pull this off.
Skid Love is one of those flicks you're just not going to see unless you see it here. A hipster anti-romance story with what looks like a B-grade aesthetic sounds interesting to me. Plus it's Canadian and plays in the matinee time slot. I always did love a good matinee.
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel. Your mother's might think Hef is a simple smut peddler but hold on lady, he's actually pretty awesome and has been fighting the good fight over civil rights, human liberties and the first amendment since forever. Plus this documentary is directed by a woman - Brigitte Berman - who already has one Academy Award on her mantle and will surely tell it like it is.
Panique au Village answers that age-old question: "What would happen if a toy plastic Cowboy and Indian lived with a toy Horse and they spaced on his birthday?"
This frantic stop-motion feature is fast, furious, fun and f#ck yeah!
MachoTailDrop is a skateboarding film with style, narrative and all kinds of surrealism. It's like Dogtown meets A Clockwork Orange but in a fairytale universe (and without the ultraviolence and rape). Plus it has Rick McCrank in it. 'Nuff said.
Chloe is Atom Egoyan's latest flick. Atom is arguably Canada's premier talent behind the camera so expect high drama, eroticism, crazy awesome plotting and heavy intense shit. This is the opposite of the movies I usually like (no chicks with machine guns), but Egoyan rarely disappoints. Plus it stars Julianne Moore, who just gets foxier and foxier as the years go by, and Amanda Seyfried, a perfect example of what a young, gorgeous actress with real talent can achieve if she keeps her nose clean and works hard. Also, Liam Neeson is in this. He was awesome in Taken.
SUCK is that kick-ass rock and roll vampire movie you've been hearing so much about. With mad cameos from real rockers, crazy humour, sweet sounds and Jessica Pare, who just might be Canada's sexiest actress you don't even know you love yet. (Pare had me hooked when she did Lost and Delirious, the lesbian private school movie with the inexplicable hawk/bird of prey metaphor.)
High Life is a heist movie starring Timothy Olyphant. I think he was pretty good in The Girl Next Door and seriously, how can you go wrong with a heist movie? The matinee time slot and a large ice tea helps fight off that hangover too.
Mighty Uke. When I moved to Whistler a month late for Grade 7 all the other kids could already play "Michael Row your Boat Ashore" on the ukulele and I had never even seen one before (I wanted to play the Saxophone like Maceo Parker but the Whistler Elementary Band program was limited to Ukulele only). I had to overcome incredible adversity if I wanted to hold my own in the idiotic Christmas recital. It was high drama, I'm telling you, so I'll be god damned if I'm gonna miss an entire ukulele documentary screening just a few hundred feet away from where it all went down with me and those tiny guitars over 20 years ago. Also, the Ukulele is coming back, you heard it here first.
Defendor stars Woody Harrelson as a regular dude who dresses up like a superhero and fights crime at night while befriending a prostitute played by Kat Dennings. Are you kidding me? That sounds like the first three courses on the menu at Heaven's Christmas party. Count me in. Too bad Kat Dennings isn't in town because she is another one of those great young actresses that aren't pissing away their lives in the tabloids and I'd love to buy her a shot of Jack to commend her on it.
To Hell and Back: A Musical Journey. This is the hottest ticket in town this week. Winner of the B-Grade Horrorfest, this movie is wrong in all the right places and weird in all the rest. Ever seen a grown man sprint down the road with a full erection? You have now.
Taylor's Way sounds tense and sad and quiet and pensive (a.k.a. the perfect movie to work on that hangover from the GLC Film Fest Party the night before. Canadian-made too.)
Growing Up Whistler is one of those Whistler Stories short flicks where local filmmakers get paid to make quality local films (Fantastic concept, keep it going even after the Olympics end!). This time it's Peter Harvey directing a sweet film about three local kids on their way to the big show, the Olympics.
The Edge of Never is the movie everyone in town wants to see. Skiing legend Glen Plake takes local Kye Peterson over to France to introduce him to the a bit of history, the old-school big mountain skiing community and the run that took his father's life. You kind of have to go check this one out if you live in this town. Or even if you don't.