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Sometimes a silly, low budget fantasy horror is just what we need. Maybe we’ve had a tough day at work and need something so ridiculous it’s funny, or perhaps we just want something light, bubbly, and darkly fun to go with our bucket of popcorn. Despite all the snobbery inherent in film criticism, some movies classed as bad are damn good fun. Of course, Troll is not one of the worst movies in cinematic history; that title goes to its 1990 sequel, but more of that later in this article. But, Troll did have serious problems, from its confusing mix of gothic fairytale horror and comedy to its budget Gremlins inspired effects. But, despite these flaws, John Carl Buechler’s movie remains one of my Halloween guilty pleasures.
In Buechler’s strange fantasy world, we are introduced to The Potter family; Harry Potter Senior (yes, that’s right Harry Potter!), his wife Anne, teenage son Harry Junior and young daughter Wendy. The Potter’s have just moved into a brand new San Francisco apartment building filled with colourful characters. But just a few hours into their arrival, Wendy is attacked in the basement by a troll who takes her form, the Troll’s mission to convert the apartment block into a Troll haven. Harry Jr immediately notices Wendy’s strange behaviour and seeks the help of a mysterious older woman named Eunice St. Clair, who lives upstairs.
READ MORE: THE NEVERENDING STORY
If all this sounds nuts, it is! Buechler’s movie is, in essence, a bizarre yet entertaining mix of fantasy, horror and comedy that never quite decides where its heart lies. But, there is also joy and creativity in the film’s narrative, alongside some brilliant performances. In fact, it’s the cast who make Troll a sharp slice of fantasy horror despite some of the dodgy effects work. Here, the family unit feels rooted in realism, with Michael Moriarty’s Harry Potter Sr and Shelley Hack’s Anne Potter utterly brilliant as two parents desperate to make their move a success. But the real praise has to go to Noah Hathaway’s Harry Potter Jr, June Lockhart’s Eunice St. Clair and Jenny Beck’s Wendy Anne Potter, who steal the show.
Released ten months before Critters (1986), Troll bombed at the box office, but thanks to a whole host of film fans, it did find a whole lot of love on VHS. And while it may be fatally flawed in parts, Troll carries a warmth that you can’t help but fall for. Due to this, Troll will always hold a place in my Halloween heart.
But we can’t talk about Troll without returning to its 1990 sequel, Troll II. After all, this straight to VHS disaster deserves more than a few lines of my time. Troll II has often been called the worst, best movie ever made. While I have no intention of entering into that debate here, I will leave you with the following thoughts. Sometimes bad movies are great fun, so go on, pour a drink, fill a bowl with popcorn and indulge in a double bill of Troll and Troll II; you won’t regret it, I promise.