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John Carl Buechler’s Troll was my first horror film (fun fact: The main character is named Harry Potter Jr.), but until last minute preparation for this review I’d never seen Claudio Fragasso’s (one of Italy’s worst genre filmmakers, by the way) Troll II. I feel like a failure since bad Italian movies are a bit of my speciality. Anyway, I’m now educated in the ways of Troll II, and I feel ready to tackle this critically acclaimed documentary – Best Worst Movie. Troll II is a pretty entertainingly inept little film, from its dime store make-up to its dime store acting. Fragasso actually offers a hint of style, and most importantly, the thing moves quicker than most terrible Italian cash-in horror movies (like most of Fragasso’s movies). My personal enjoyment may have more to do with how explicitly Italian the film feels, but I’m not sure I’m ready to call it the Best Worst Movie just yet. Why, there’s Jess Franco’s Bloody Moon, Antonio Margheriti’s Cannibal Apocalypse, Bruno Mattei’s Rats: Night of Terror (written by Fragasso), Norman J. Warren’s Inseminoid, Juan Piquer Simón’s Pieces, and Luigi Cozzi’s Star Crash to consider. There’s also the fact that some scenes are clearly played for campy laughs, which kind of pushes Best Worst Movie out of competition. Clearly I couldn’t have made Best Worst Movie just due to indecision, but director Michael Paul Stephenson has the balls to make his choice.

Best Worst Movie
The documentary covers the lives of a few of the actors, most of whom are embarrassed as all hell about the experience, though lead George Hardy grows interested when he realizes he’s a cult figure, and director Michael Stephenson is the child lead. Hardy then takes part the film’s unexpectedly fruitful re-release tour, which leads to some sweet scenes of audiences cheering for super stars that had no idea they were known outside their homes. Some of the fan service stuff is cringe inducing. My favourite section is the one where Stephenson journeys to Italy to talk to Fraggasso, screenwriter Rossella Drudi, and editor Vanio Amici. The tone switches from laughing with the interviewees to trying not to laugh at them. Like most filmmakers Fraggasso thinks the critics missed the boat, and his film is great. There’s a terrifyingly awkward scene where the director comes to America for a showing. His expression drops from gleaming with pride, to wanting to crawl into himself as the laughs pour out of the audience. He seems to embrace the culture quickly enough though, and there are cute little re-enactments of certain scenes where he plays director.

But Best Worst Movie has more in common with American Movie and Double Dare than Not Quite Hollywood, and has some really low moments, like when Hardy and Stephenson track down actress Margo Prey, who has fallen into some pretty heartbreaking disarray (she may be schizophrenic), or a few depressing con appearances. It’s no Crumb, but there are some primal cry for help, suicidal inducing sad moments. The schmaltz pours out a bit thick at times as well, which slows everything down, which is my only real complaint. Sometimes the mix of music and image veers towards inspirational Christian videos for children. It’s all worth it for Fraggasso shaking down the big cast reunion panel for saying negative things about the shoot. I want him to tour with Jess Franco to talk about Euro Trash, and how worthless all the actors are.

Best Worst Movie

Video


Whew, not a lot to say here. Best Worst Movie is shot quickly and without any added frills. We’re talking handheld, grab what you need stuff. There’s digital artefacts all over the place, including edge halos, jaggies, and low level noise. Colours are dingy thanks to the regular use of natural lighting, and details follow suit. It’s all acceptable, and goes well with the film (I’m not sure if there is an HD version out there), so I don’t think anyone is going to be too upset. No signs of interlacing though.

Best Worst Movie

Audio


The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn’t much more exciting, but the film is almost all dialogue based anyway, so who cares about the intricacies of the surround sound work. The music and scenes from the film itself have a decent stereo performance, with a bit of bass boost, but overall the single microphone camera interviews are low-key.

Best Worst Movie

Extras


Extras start with a big old pile of deleted scenes (almost an hour’s worth), mostly focusing on the side characters which may not have had their fair share of on screen craziness. The best parts include Fraggasso discussing some of his other films, nerdy extras waxing philosophical on their experience, the cast making fun of the horror con crowd, footage from the stuff the cast has been working on since. There’s a pretty funny ‘no texting’ public service announcement (1:00), a homemade music video (Kingdom of the Goblins, 4:00), a really odd and shoestring shot short film ( Meat Noam Telnoboy 2, 6:00), a long and painful interview with the ‘Goblin Queen’, Debrah Reed (13:00), ‘George Hardy Doesn’t Know My Name’ music video from a web show called ‘Reel Good Show’, along with another music video (Monstrous, 4:00), the original trailer, and an audio only podcast with Creative Screenwriting (82:00). Also included are the Filmmaker’s Bio, and other Docurama trailers.

Best Worst Movie

Overall


Best Worst Movie didn’t quite live up to my painfully high expectations, but it’s still a delightful retrospective, and genuinely touching movie. Director Claudio Fragasso’s reactions to the film’s reception are among the most elegant jewels in the film. Video and audio quality is limited by the film’s style, but the extras are good fun. Preferably the film and extras would’ve been made available with the recent Troll II Blu-ray release, but alas, you’re gonna have to buy both.


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