I don’t know if this has happened to other people, but I’ve been traumatized more then once by movies when I was a child. Now sure, most people will talk about how Poltergeist forever put them off clowns, but I’m trying to crawl into my past to point out some of the more ridiculous things that scared me as a child. And well, clowns were creepy to begin with. My own personal belief is that their painted on smiles trigger that ancient residual instinct from when we viewed teeth as a threat. But I am rambling.
The first time I ever had the pants scared off of me by a movie would have been around 1980. The event is still fresh in my mind, which probably means it is 100% inaccurate. It was early in the afternoon and my mom was at home. You see, is the distant past families were once able to survive on only one income. Quaint, to be sure. Nowadays people like that would most certainly be labeled lazy, a drain on society, or worse yet, Democrats. But I am rambling.
I don’t remember what show I was watching, but in hindsight have realized it couldn’t have been PBS, when an ad came on for a horror film. The trailer followed several young adults as they ventured into some sort of sarcophagus. It was moody and creepy and that was before the bodies started rising from their graves. I’m not quite sure what happened next with me, but I’m pretty sure crying was involved. From their my mother called the television station and complained about the ad, only to find out numerous other parents were calling in as well. Enough that the ad was yanked, never to be played again. Only in hindsight I wish I had made it through to the end of the trailer, as to this day I still have absolutely no idea what the movie was. So as I have grown older I have never had the chance to go back and visit this film in an attempt to exercise my cinematic demons.
It was only a few years later when I’d have my next big scare. But this time I was old enough to remember what film it was I was watching, and while I chose once again to run away screaming, now, years later I have finally decided to get back around to the movie that scared me to death. That movie is, was, and hopefully never again shall be Troll.
My fear of Troll was two fold. First, they killed Sonny Bono ten minutes into the film. Now I’ve seen plenty of episodes of Scooby-Doo, and you never ever EVER kill off the major talent that quickly. If you do that then anyone else can be next, and that ultimately means everyone else will die, and my ten year old brain couldn’t deal with that. Also, the manner in which they killed him was an issue. You see, Torok the troll pricked him with some sort of power ring which caused Sonny Bono to have boils all over his body, then mutate into a giant green slug, and finally into an enormous pod that burst open and plants grew out of, turning his entire pad into a newly restored fairy kingdom. Let me state this rather clearly, this scared the crap out of me. I mean seriously, the whole idea of a pin prick turning you into a giant plant was more then I could handle. I could barely deal with going to the doctor and getting those dumb blood tests already, now I knew that with just a simple mistake that the stupid nurse could turn me into a giant agricultural boil. So I made a simple decision, I was done with Troll. You hear me, I renounce Troll! And it has only taken me twenty one years to realize that maybe I was a tad overzealous. Now, years later I am finally able to revisit Troll, in the hopes of exorcising my childhood demons, and maybe watching a half-way decent fantasy film. Unfortunately I was only able to complete one of those two endeavors.
It didn’t take me long to quickly realize that Troll is a veritable cornucopia of pop culture references. Making up the cast you have the Mayor of Palm Springs (Sonny Bono), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a bad ass Nelwyn (Phil Fondacaro), the little girl that saves the world in V: The Final Battle (Jenny Beck), and even Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) playing the role of our hero, Harry Potter Jr.
But does Troll have anything to offer a viewer other then a gaggle of cast members known for roles in better movies and television shows? Nope, not really. Troll, even inspit of many of its special effects being puppets, has an incredibly dated and garish look . Bono’s apartment as the buildings resident cad is especially bad, and I found myself almost excited that both his character and his wretched apartment would be exiting the film rather quickly. Even Bono’s transformation scene holds up surprisingly poorly. The initial boils and his face partially smelting not withstanding, the remainder of the transformation is painfully poor stop motion animation that would have looked cheap even to Harryhausen. It also made me realize that as a child I was a bit of a weenie. That scene is what scared me so badly? Ugggh. Pre-pubescent me totally sucks.
The other noticeable problem with Troll is the plotting is incredibly poor. The film actually has a competent and interesting storyline, but the film continually diverts from it to disasterous effects. Focusing primarily on the real world, Troll struggles to develop momentum everytime you are brought back to the Potter’s apartment. A dinner with one of the tenents makes almost no sense and has little impact with the remainder of the movie, while a dance sequence by Harry Potter Sr (Michael Moriarty) is an outright disaster. Both structurally and rhythmically. Sure, Moriarty would eventually go completely bonkers in real life, moving to Canada to run for President of the United States claiming to head up the “I am Jack Ryan” ticket, but even that seems logical compared to this dance number. Thus I struggled to understand why their was such a focus on these minute matters, when the film was far more interesting when it was following Torok as he transformed the apartments into fairy realms, or when Harry Potter Jr was talking with Eunice (June Lockhart) about being a witch and how he can save his sister from the evil troll.
In the end I had to come to grips with the fact that Troll is a film that simply has no idea what it wants to be. Is it a fairy tale? A horror film? A fantasy adventure? Who knows, as it touches all aspects of these within its story but never stays with any of them for more then a scene at a time. The film does have potential though, for if the story was streamlined and more time was spent devoted to the fairy realms you could have an impressive fantasy/horror film. Director John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood) even showed a bit of skill at building tension with the first few scenes, only to fritter it away during the course of the film.
Troll is a film that has potential, but nevertheless finds new and unique ways to continually squash its chances at succeeding. It is easy to see why Buechler is attempting to remake the film, as their is plenty of material to work with, but the original simply rambles on with no idea what it wants to say or do, thus coming across as content to not accomplish much of anything then waste your precious time.