08 June 2009

Best Worst Movie Matchup: Troll 2 vs. The Room

This summer, Alex Riviello of CHUD.com will be hosting free horror movie screenings on the first Sunday of every month at Hell Gate Social here in Astoria. Funsanity is guaranteed for all, and if you live in the New York area, I highly recommend you turn up. Booze + horror + a chance to win a free DVD = A great time, every time. I haven't seen next month's selection, Razorback, but I've heard good things.

The program was kicked off tonight with Troll 2, which is one of those films some people describe as "the worst movie ever made." In fact, its lead actor, Michael Stephenson, made a documentary about the film's production and its reception called Best Worst Movie (another one I haven't seen, but it's gotten a very positive response at every festival it's played at, and I'm eager to watch it). It was on that basis that I went to tonight's screening, and I was certainly not disappointed.

Way back in high school, in the before time, I would periodically watch bad movies with my friends just to see how bad they were, and merrily rip on them. These movies did not have to be legendarily bad - Wild Wild West fit the bill - but the worse it was, the better. This phase did not last long - it could not survive against Battlefield Earth, which is, to date, the only film that gave me a headache while watching it.

However, once in a while a film comes along that truly is entertainingly bad, so awful it transforms into a larf, and I will damn my principles and watch it with glee. This sort of film is much rarer than fans of bad movies would care to admit, but they are out there. Troll 2 is definitely one. It is a completely inept piece of work, blundering in just about every aspect of film production. If you have not seen it, and you enjoy laughing at other people trying and failing, then I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Troll 2 has been ragged on as one of the worst movies ever made for a while now, and with Best Worst Movie on the horizon, it's gaining new momentum. It will have to build up quite a bit to overcome the lead held by another sublimely shitty movie, The Room, the cult of which has recently exploded thanks to increased mainstream media attention. But the question remains: Which film is better? Er, that it is to say, which film is worse, thereby making it better to watch? That is, which film is better in a bad way?

You know what I'm getting at.

I've seen both films now (The Room several wonderful times) and so I come to weigh in on this era-defining debate. And my conclusion is: The Room wins it in a walk. In saying this, I do not mean to belittle Troll 2 in any way. It is, by all reasonable measurements, pretty fucking bad. But The Room, somehow, displays an even higher level of incompetence.

For example, all of Troll 2 is filmed on the same stock, and all of it is in focus. Also, the plot of Troll 2 does have some sort of a shading of logic, however tenuous. What happens may be stupid, odd, and thoroughly ridiculous, but we can follow along without any trouble. There are even a couple of jump scares in Troll 2 that, if one were completely looking in another direction and happened to glance at the screen at the very moment the jump happened, might have a chance of actually working, maybe.

None of this is true of The Room; it lacks even the primitive competency that Troll 2 exhibits. But there are more factors at play, and what truly gives The Room the upper hand is that it's a drama. At heart, it's a deeply personal film made by some kind of auteur attempting to express something, whereas Troll 2 is a cheaply made horror film created purely for the money. You watch Troll 2 and laugh. You watch The Room and laugh, but you also have a sick fascination, and a tendency to ask "Is this real?" and "Oh, dear God, no," and "Holy fuck, why are they doing this to me?" It has an earnestness that renders as creepiness onscreen.

Another way The Room's dramatic nature gives it an edge is that its outlandishness arises from everyday situations. In Troll 2, goblins (despite the title) kill people by turning them into plants and eating them. Even if it were a good movie, we still know we're going to see something fucked up and out of the ordinary, and go in anticipating it. The Room, on the other hand, is about a guy whose fiancee is cheating on him. Hey, that shit happens in regular life, as do the other situations depicted in the film: drug dealers demanding money, friends playing football, women getting breast cancer, people having sex in homes they don't own, etc. These things should be relatable to anyone watching, yet The Room manages to warp them into surrealistic horrorshows where you begin to question your own sanity. In this, The Room becomes an even greater horror movie than Troll 2 can ever hope to be, hell, than even The Goddamn Exorcist can hope to be.

The Room has one more ace up its sleeve, the element that draws all these things together. I write, of course, about its creator, Mr. Tommy Wiseau. Some friends of mine once described him as looking like "a lizard man wearing a human suit," particularly in his nauseatingly frequent love scenes. This is true, but even beyond that, Mr. Wiseau has an alien factor to him that draws our attention. In his performance, he is honest and upfront, in terms of his emotions, and yet a bizarre mystery we are dying to unravel, in terms of his country of origin, his thought process, his background. Brilliant in Context repeat offender Anthony E. Griffin once told me that Mr. Wiseau is the best actor in the film because he's always real and natural. I think there's a lot of truth to that, and a good explanation of why he has become some kind of star.

Despite my preference for The Room, I consider both films to be excellent, in their own way, and well worth the watching. I would not be ashamed to own either, and urge you to seek them out if you have not done so already. Preferably with a big bag of popcorn, a refrigerator stocked with beer, and a group of smartass friends.


  1. Razorback has one of the most riveting openings to a horror film is the history of horror films. The credit sequence alone is worth examining. (Yes, this opinion is invalidated by my admission that Mr. Wiseau is best actor in film.)

  2. Troll 2 was not made "just for the money". I liked the article but your conclusion is based off of an erroneous assumption.
    If you saw the doc Best Worst Movie you'd know Claudio Fragasso was extremely sincere and passionate about his movie.
    At least he stood by his work and didn't go around claiming is was a "Black Comedy" after the fact.

    I should make it clear it sounds like I'm all upset in the comment but uh yeah im not. LOL JK I'm pretty F_CKIN UPSET MAN!

  3. I disagree. While the director of Troll 2, Claudio Fragrasso, may have been extremely sincere and passionate about it, the production company putting up the money for the film, Filmirage, probably was not, and like any company, they wouldn't have funded it unless they thought they could see a profit. Judging from their IMDb page, they seem to have specialized in low-budget genre work sure to make that cash money. So while my writing that Troll 2 was made "just for the money" may have been overly broad, I wouldn't call it an erroneous assumption.

    I do agree that Wiseau claiming The Room was meant to be a black comedy is a cop-out, but hey, whatever lets the guy sleep at night.