Michael Paul Stephenson had his acting debut at the tender age of ten, when he was cast as the child star of the 1990 cinematic train wreck known as Troll 2. Years later, Troll 2 has become an underground, cult phenomenon acknowledged by most as “the worst movie ever made.” Stephenson, who is now a director, writer, and producer, decided to explore the unexpected popularity of Troll 2 in his first feature-length documentary, Best Worst Movie.
Flavorpill: Tell us about your film.
Michael Paul Stephenson: Best Worst Movie is my directorial debut, a documentary that takes us on an off-beat journey into the undisputed worst movie in cinematic history: Troll 2. In 1989, when an Italian filmmaker and unwitting Utah actors shot the ultra-low budget horror film, Troll 2, they had no idea that twenty years later they would be celebrated worldwide for their legendary ineptitude. Two decades later, the film’s now-grown-up child star (me) unravels the improbable, heartfelt story of the Alabama dentist-turned-cult movie icon and the Italian filmmaker who come to terms with this genuine, internationally-revered cinematic failure.
FP: As you mentioned, there is a general consensus that Troll 2 is one of the worst movies of all time; can you explain what makes it so remarkably bad?
MPS: Bad? No. Troll 2 is brilliant. It is an important film about eating… living… and dying. It’s a magical film that has reached new pinnacles of success because it is sincere. Troll 2 has heart.
Perhaps you’re confusing it with Transformers 2? That’s the worst movie ever made.
FP: Troll 2 is filled with charming, and bewildering eccentricities. Can you provide a few examples for those who haven’t seen the film?
MPS: Where do I begin?
What do you get when a non-English speaking Italian director arrives in Utah to make a low-budget horror film about vegetarian goblins that embark on an evil plot to turn a boy’s family into edible houseplants? Just your run-of-the-mill story.
Now, combine first-time actors, an Alabama dentist, little people dressed up in potato sacks and cheap latex masks and throw them all into the middle of nowhere.
Next, add a lesson on good ol’ country hospitality, a painfully annoying little ten-year-old brat (me) who has a penchant for pissing and communicating with his dead grandpa through mirrors.
Then, top it off with a climatic corn-on-the-cob sex scene, a Molotov cocktail, and a double-decker bologna sandwich.
Finally, add two huge heaping portions of sincerity, and throw it all into a blender. What do you get? A slimy, green, provocative, concoction that tastes like genuine failure mixed with the true essence, the heart and soul, of B-Movie magic. Delicious!
Oh, and don’t be confused. There are no Trolls in Troll 2.
FP: After seeing Troll 2 as a child, you were humiliated and didn’t want to have anything more to do with the film. What compelled you to give it a second chance and turn your experience into a documentary?
MPS: Fans (read: stalkers) tracked down where I lived, doorbell ditched me, and left a cake on my doorstep. Across the top in green frosting it read, “Welcome to Nilbog.” I could no longer escape Troll 2.
FP: How much do you think that the internet, and social networking sites, contributed to the rise of Troll 2?
MPS: Well, several factors have contributed to the recent resurgence and have allowed it to transform from an embarrassment into cult classic: the countless late-night airings on cable networks throughout the ’90s, MGM’s release of the double-feature Troll/Troll 2 DVD (please note: Troll and Troll 2 have nothing to do with each other. Nobody watches Troll, don’t bother.)
However, it was the internet and social networking sites that made the movie more accessible and brought everybody together, creating a critical mass. A complete stranger sent me a MySpace message that read, “Are you Joshua Waits? Please say it is so!” Twenty-something fans started emailing me photos of their Troll 2 parties, held in basements across the world. Kids were dressing up like goblins, eating green food, and even pissing on dinner tables.
FP: Why are audiences intrigued by films that are so bad they’re good?
MPS: Film critic Scott Weinberg says it best, “Bad books are bad. Bad food is bad. But, bad movies aren’t always bad.”
FP: While filming Troll 2, did you pick up on any hints that there might be something “off”?
MPS: No, in fact I thought I was making the next Gremlins or the next Labyrinth. I was going to be a star! All of us thought that we were making a great horror film, and we failed miserably. And it’s this genuine failure that resulted in the cinematic-car-crash turned unintentional comedy.
FP: Your former director Claudio Fragasso is still getting used to the film’s reputation as the worst movie of all time, but everyone else involved seems to have embraced its standing. What were Claudio’s expectations for the film and how do you think he missed the mark?
MPS: Claudio set out to make his version of an American horror film. What resulted was a film that was scary for all of the wrong reasons, yet entertaining in ways that most films could only dream of. Intentional or not, it has left a lasting impression and is exactly as it should be, spectacular.
FP: Tell us about Troll 2: Part 2
MPS: After the gruesome death of his wife, Farmer Waits (George Hardy) has become a backwoods bearded recluse who carries a rusty shotgun with the word “Hospitality!” hand-carved into the gunstock. The only life left life in him is spent plotting revenge against the goblins that ruined his family’s trip to the countryside.
It’s in development. Fragasso and Rossella Drudi (screenwriter of Troll 2) are penning the script. All of the original cast is returning, even the dead ones. Patton Oswalt is in talks to play Ancient Lord of Stonehenge Magic Stone.
View the trailers for the now infamous Troll 2 and Best Worst Movie below; find information on upcoming screenings here.
Troll 2 trailer
Best Worst Movie trailer