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This cheesy 1980s production is notable mostly because it begat the in-name-only sequel TROLL 2, which is widely hailed as the worst movie of all time. This first TROLL isn’t as laughably bad as its follow-up. It’s not much of anything, in fact, it just…is.

The Package
     TROLL was a product of Charles Band’s notorious Empire Pictures, who in the mid 1980s proudly announced in VARIETY that “Our Time Has Come.” Empire’s time came alright…and went nearly as quickly! This film wasn’t one of the Empire’s more auspicious entries (although in truth there weren’t too many auspicious Empire movies period). It was scripted by the prolific novelist/journalist Ed Naha, and featured an eclectic cast: Michael Moriarty, THE STEPFATHER’S Shelley Hack, Noah Hathaway (from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and THE NEVERENDING STORY), Sonny Bono and a young Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
     TROLL is also notable for a very different reason: it’s the first-ever film appearance of a character named Harry Potter!

The Story
     A suburban family moves into a big city tenement where, in the basement, the young Wendy Potter finds a magic ring. This turns her into a snarling brat--and eventually into a squat, hairy troll who flashes her magic ring at an obnoxious neighbor, which turns him into a cocoon. That cocoon sprouts tendrils that turn the man’s apartment into a mossy wonderland where the troll cavorts with others of his kind.
     Wendy’s older brother Harry Potter gets a jolt when his troll-sister zaps him unconscious with her ring after turning another neighbor’s apartment into a greenhouse. The girl, you see, can transform into a troll and back again at will. Her next victim is a young actress who the troll turns into a dancing wood-nymph.
     Harry voices his concerns about Wendy to an old woman tenant who happens to be a sorceress, and who knows what’s happening in the building. She keeps a tiny mushroom creature as a pet, and a trident on hand to defeat the troll. The latter, she claims, is an ancient fairy dedicated to darkness who is trying to turn the apartment building into a green netherworld--and from there the rest of the Earth!
     The old gal tries to take on the troll and his minions but ends up transformed into a talking tree. This leaves Harry to save the apartment, and subsequently the world, on his own.

The Direction
     It must be said that Ed Naha’s imaginative script for TROLL has promise, and the cheap but elaborate special effects, designed by the director, aren’t bad for an Empire production. Unfortunately John Carl Buechler, whose first directorial effort this was, fails to distinguish himself. He’s a competent filmmaker but evidently suffers from impaired judgment: the sight of Michal Moriarty doing an exaggerated lip synch rendition of Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues” isn’t funny or cute, and nor is the mid-film troll sing-along. The film is littered with such nonsense, which makes it difficult to take the scary and dramatic elements seriously.
     It seems John Buechler was trying to create a dark yet campy fairy tale, but the results aren’t nearly weird or scary enough to succeed as such. A filmmaker who could have made all of this work (and who might possibly have been persuaded to take the job back then) is Tim Burton, whose BEETLEJUICE is everything TROLL wishes it was.

Vital Statistics

Empire Pictures

Director: John Carl Buechler
Producer: Albert Band
Screenplay: Ed Naha
Cinematography: Romano Albani
Editing: Lee Percy
Cast: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Jenny Beck, Sonny Bono, Phil Fondacaro, Brad Hall, Anne Lockhart, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Sandy