The Original Troll
I turned on the television at lunchtime (I’m still in the honeymoon phase with cable in my new home) and immediately came across the movie Troll just as it was starting up. This movie started showing up for me as a kid on Saturday afternoon movie stations in Atlanta, often as part of double feature with Critters, or even a triple feature with Gremlins. Troll is a terrible movie. A wonderfully terrible movie. I remember my mom or dad walking into the room and saying, “what are you watching?” I was probably 11 and I knew it was bad, but it was compulsively watchable. If it was on tv and I was home, I’d watch it, which was probably a once a month. I tried to watch it with my sleepover best friend once, but she thought it was weird and silly and didn’t get into it. I’d been thinking about this movie recently, wondering how it would ‘hold up’, i.e. will my adult bad-movie-loving self approve? I decided to liveblog it out. (The times are imperfect, as it was a live-airing and I used my phone as a clock, but you’ll get the gist.)
0:00 Michael Moriarty! Also starring, in alphabetical order: Sonny Bono! Julia Louis-Dreyfus! June Lockhart! That is some semi-star power.
0:03 Is that the blond girl from Poltergeist? No, some other familiar blond girl from 80s things, including the original miniseries V [the topic of next week’s childhood revisitation film project]. And the brother played Atreyu in The Neverending Story, i.e. my prepubescent heartthrob.
0:05 Damn, blond girl Wendy got snatched! And eaten by Troll who had been hiding in the laundry room?!? The muppet is now rehearsing nursery rhymes and using his green glowey magic ring to change his body to look like Wendy. Oh damn, I see where this is going – evil child movie! I love evil child movies!1 This is starting to explain some things about my fascination.
0:12 The fire alarm goes off in their apartment building and while going down the stairs, Troll Wendy ‘accidentally’ shoves neighbor Sonny Bono down the last four. It looks like he did his own stunts! We learn the dad is named Harry Potter, Sr. and Atreyu is Harry Potter, Jr. Does JK Rowling owe someone money for ripping off this gem? Let’s keep watching and find out.
0:16 I love how stately and elegant women of a certain age in 1980s movies get depicted as if it’s the 1880s when they want to hint of magic or supernatural powers. June Lockhart wins as the landlord of the building, Regal Grandmother.
0:18 Sonny Bono is apparently the Sleazy Love Machine: silk robe, fake asiatic wall hangings, black leather couches, hi-fi sound system and lava lamps. So many signifiers in one apartment!
0:20 DAMN, Wendy picked Atreyu up and threw him across the floor! And when the dad said, what’s going on, the brother gasped, “I just tripped” and covered for him. Battered brother syndrome begins.
0:21 Now Wendy’s gone upstairs to punish Sonny by turning into the awkwardly lumbering troll puppet and sticking him with the emerald ring. Then some awesomely gross special effect puppetry happens to the former mayor of Palm Springs: he gets veiny, then bulbous, then becomes a pod and branches grow out of him, which forms a woodland inside the sleazy bachelor pad? Ok, that sounds about right. Oh! And don’t forget the tiny puppet creature from the black lagoon who pops up, along with baby trolls! Aww, they’re so cute and gross.
0:25 I just noticed I’m watching this move on the Encore Mystery channel. Maybe I should be wondering where the hell this troll came from or how it exists or how it came to live in San Franciso, but I guess…OMG THE MUSHROOM PUPPET! THE OLD LADY HAS A MUSHROOM PUPPET! Well, I guess it’s supposed to be her live pet mushroom, but you know what I mean. I forgot about that awesome little puppet. Again, my reasons for loving this movie are pretty clear.
0:28 The troll just met a neighbor, a literature professor and little person and she refers to him as “Little Elf”. Awkward.
0:30 Gratuitous scene of Michael Moriarty in sweater and khakis rocking out in the cottage living room to Blue Cheer’s cover of Summertime Blues. Yes, please.
0:35 More neighbors in the building are offed by Troll/Wendy. More awesome and creepy troll puppets hatch from the new pods. And I think they are about to break into song. Please break into song. Please break into song. I want to hear an evil woodland creature tune!
0:37 And now we get to watch the parents act stupid and awkward because their neighbor who came over for dinner is under five feet tall.
0:39 Atreyu is hiding in his bedroom watching television and getting ideas about pod people from outer space. Meanwhile at the dinner table, the professor starts reciting the poem the Faerie Queen, which they intersperse with the mushroom puppet singing plaintively, then begins the evil woodland creature operatic song! This movie is sick. I am so mesmerized. Again. Sing, bastards!!!
0:42 Storm’s brewin’. “It’s starting again” says Regal Grandmother. Wait, this happened before? You need to call a better troll exterminator or get your money back. So RG sounds a shofar and all the trolls start freaking out.
0:45 Troll Girl starts to get feral on dad, but Battered Brother steps in to keep the peace. Time for him to go visit Regal Grandmother, who is – no lie – listening to a Victriola.
0:46 Oh, she’s a witch.
0:47 Evil Blondie is off making the rounds to other apartments for pod forest nest building. Oh no, Elaine! Run away! This won’t end well.
0:49 Regal the witch explains she used to be a princess, then fell in love with a warlock. She begins to break it all down for Harry, in between saying she doesn’t have time to explain. But wait! Here comes the ticking clock: the sister is still alive and only has 72 hours before the troll permanently takes over the body.
0:53 Turns out Julia Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t get eaten – she gets made into a wood nymph who will dance seductively for the troll? Ew. Ew. Ok, reason #214 why this movie is terrible.
0:56 The professor has a terminal illness. Uh-oh. I think he’s now officially all set up to lay down his life for the blond girl.
1:00 This is an excerpt from Troll’s screenplay:
Regal Grandmother: “I want to know why everyone in the building is gone.”
Michael Moriarty: “Well, it is the weekend.”
RG: “Do you know on what day of the week Hiroshima occured?”
MM: [stammers] A weekend?
RG: “It would be interesting to find out.” [exits]
1:05 Can we mount this campaign to oust the Troll already? This 85 minute movie is starting to drag a bit. Dust off your ancient magic books and let’s get the ball rolling, Regal Grandma.
1:09 Blah blah blah still explaining fairies and something about a princess and a campaign to take over the universe blah blah blah. Just hurry and stab something Atreyu!
1:11 Ah, so it’s a lover’s quarrel. That’s what all plans of world domination boil down to really.
1:18 That’s a big scary puppet monster that Atreyu has to stab!
1:19 And he fails. But the troll doesn’t want the monster to kill the girl either, so he makes the improbable javelin throw with the magic sword and saves the day. I know it’s a cliche, but I love a troll with a heart of gold.
1:22 Wendy is back and the family is moving out. The end. Or…..is it????? Well, for me, it is – there is technically a Troll 2, but that never made it into my cable-watching rotation, so you’re on your own for that.
1: I do not have children, and I have a feeling if that ever changes, I may no longer love these movies, so I drink them up now.