Midnites for Maniacs: Vertically challenged monsters triple feature
CULT FILM It's fitting that Troll 2 is playing at Midnites for Maniacs it's truly a film only a maniac could love. This 1990 masterpiece (sorry, Julia Louis-Dreyfus fans it's a sequel to 1986's Troll in name only) was made by an Italian crew (director Drake Floyd's real name: Claudio Fragasso), starring a cast of Salt Lake City locals. The Italians, none of whom spoke much English, were focused on making what was intended to be a B-grade horror flick; the American actors, presented with a screenplay about a family whose country vacation spirals into a life-or-death standoff with a pack of hungry goblins, remained baffled throughout the three-week shoot.
Speaking to me from his office in Alabama, Dr. George Hardy an SLC dentist when he was cast as the patriarch in Troll 2, a gig that earned him "around $1,500" recalls the filming with great delight. "We had no direction at all. We tried to decipher the script, and it was so discombobulated. We had no idea what we were doing from scene to scene. All we knew was that it was shot on 35mm and that they took no time in doing retakes. They just got through one scene to the next as quickly as possible."
After the movie wrapped, Hardy moved to Alabama and went about his life, his showbiz days presumably over until a patient alerted him to the VHS availability of a certain Troll 2. His reaction crystallized the film's first, perhaps most important, enigma: "I heard the name of the movie, and I thought, 'This is weird. Why would it be called Troll 2 when there's no trolls in the movie, only goblins?'" Frequent airings on HBO raised Troll 2's profile even higher. By 2003, when the film was released on the flip side of the Troll DVD, Troll 2 had become a genuine cult classic. An IMDb.com poster recently dubbed it "the Holy Grail of bad movies."
At first, Hardy and his fellow castmates weren't sure how to react to being part of a film that raised badness to such soaring new heights. "We all ran from it. We were totally embarrassed at the time. But I guess it's almost like an old wine that starts to taste good after a few years. We then began to embrace it because we saw the craze that was going on."
Hardy and costar Michael Stephenson who played Troll 2's skateboard-riding, bologna-eating young hero, Joshua recently reconnected and set up a Web site, www.bestworstmovie.com,  and are working on a documentary titled Best Worst Movie about what Hardy calls "the Troll 2 phenomenon." Special event screenings, like the film's much-anticipated 35mm debut at the Castro Theatre (featuring Hardy and Stephenson in person), are planned throughout the summer in a variety of hospitable cities.
Los Angeles resident Stephenson who still acts but will likely never top the scene in which 10-year-old Joshua pees all over his family's dinner to prevent Mom, Dad, and Sis from becoming a goblin snack pack (don't ask) shares Hardy's enthusiasm for the second coming of Troll 2.
"For years I thought, 'I'm gonna die and be remembered as the kid who was in this awful horror movie,'" he told me from Hawaii, where he was vacationing. "But about a year ago, I woke up and turned to my wife and said, 'I'm the star of one of the worst films ever made. This is pretty cool.' And then I started looking into what the fans were doing around the film. I was getting e-mails from fans around the world that were throwing Troll 2 parties. And that's when I thought, 'This isn't just the worst movie it's the best worst movie.'"
And frankly, folks, it very well may be apologies to Showgirls, but all the G-strings in the world can't compete with lines like "They're eating her. Then they're gonna eat me. Oh my godddd!"
Stephenson elucidates: "People like it because everybody [involved in] Troll 2 went out and tried to make an earnest horror film. It wasn't meant to be campy. And it was a miserable failure. It was a cinematic car crash. And then all of a sudden, it took on this new life like a car crash, you have to look at it. You stare at it. You wonder, 'What the hell is going on with this thing?' I think with Troll 2, the fans have taken ownership of the film. It's like drinking spoiled milk. You taste it, and then you're, like, 'Aw, you gotta taste this! It's terrible!' You immediately want someone else to taste it so you can share that experience."
MIDNITES FOR MANIACS: VERTICALLY CHALLENGED MONSTERS TRIPLE FEATURE
Fri/25, Gremlins, 7:30 p.m.; Howard the Duck, 9:45 p.m.; Troll 2, midnight; $10
429 Castro, SF