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.
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!
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.
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.
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,