By Sam Stander
There are few fandoms so charmingly enthusiastic as the hordes of video-hounds who treasure Troll 2 (1990), by many accounts the worst movie ever made. This past Saturday night, the East Bay took its turn in the publicity blitz for Best Worst Movie, a documentary about the Troll 2 phenomenon, directed by the ridiculous horror flick’s then-child star Michael Paul Stephenson. Stephenson appeared with his costar George Hardy in San Francisco on Friday, but only Hardy was on hand for the Saturday night screenings at Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinemas.
The theater wasn’t full, but many of its seats were filled with Troll 2 diehards — the woman seated to my right sported a green shirt bearing the legend “GOBLIN.” The uninitiated might be wondering what such a shirt has to do with a movie named for trolls; well, Troll 2 doesn’t feature any trolls, but rather a town (called Nilbog) filled with sap-thirsty vegetarian goblins. About ten minutes before the lights went down for Best Worst Movie, one guy in the audience loudly paraphrased Stephenson’s revelatory line from the film, shouting, “Oh no, Nilbog is ‘goblin’ spelled backwards!”
These were, by and large, not Troll 2 virgins, and their reactions to the documentary were warm and joyful. Even some of Best Worst 's most uncomfortable or sad moments drew laughter — Stephenson’s movie impeccably balances the camp-informed following of the film with tenderly observed portraits of the ordinary, extraordinary, and occasionally mad participants in the original film fiasco.
As the credits for Best Worst Movie rolled, George Hardy, who plays Troll 2 ’s father figure, Michael Waits, took to the front of the theater, mic in hand. He’s 55 now, a well-established dentist in Alexander City, Alabama, and after a first wave of engaging with his cultish fans that began a few years ago, he’s back on the road to promote the documentary. On Saturday he gave numerous shout-outs to his cousins and dentist friends in the audience at Shattuck Cinemas, often speaking directly to them.
Hardy answered questions about the experience with the mostly Italian crew of Troll 2 — “pretty unprofessional, really” — as well as participating in the documentary. For one part of Best Worst, where the core cast returned to the house where much of Troll 2 takes place, he indicated they paid $1500 to clean up the house just so they could enter it.
Hardy spoke in awed tones of a dental patient from 12 years back who had come out of the woodwork for the San Francisco screening the night before — she lived just down the street from the Lumiere Theatre. But the real emotion came when he started to talk about Michael Paul Stephenson, for whom he seems to have a great deal of admiration and love. His light, scatterbrained yet sincere approach to answering the audience’s questions might have been due to tipsiness. “I did have a glass of wine before I came over here,” he admitted.
I asked Hardy if he’s received any other offers for film roles since the resurgence of Troll 2. He pointed out that he has appeared in one other film, Street Team Massacre (2007), but volunteered the fact that he can’t memorize lines.
Hardy said this was something like theater number 78 on the Best Worst Movie tour, but declared Shattuck Cinemas one of the nicest venues. Then it was back to number 77 again, the Lumiere in SF, to do another Q&A and introduce a midnight screening of the offending film itself, Troll 2. That screening was similarly attended by a small knot of fans, but for those in the audience who hadn’t had the pleasure, Hardy offered, “It’s a religious experience, I promise.”