John Carl Buechler
STARRINGMichael Moriarty - Harry Potter Sr.
Noah Hathaway - Harry Potter Jr.
Shelley Hack - Anne Potter
Jenny Beck - Wendy Ann Potter
June Lockhart - Eunice St. Clair
Phil Fondacaro - Malcolm Malory/Torok
Year - 1986
Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4
Back in 1984, GREMLINS was a huge box office and critical success due to the film's smaller monster characters that appealed to a wide range of audiences. The massive success of Gizmo and company led to other movie studios creating their own tiny monsters to rule the silver screen. In 1985, a GREMLINS-like horror film called GHOULIES was released. The film was so successful that it spawned three sequels [which were worse after each one, but that's another story]. The creators behind GHOULIES decided to capitalize on their success and create a lighter film - one more based on magic, fantasy, and comedy. That film was TROLL, released in 1986 as a "horror" film for children. It wasn't a mainstream success, but it has gained a loyal following in the cult world. Is a film called TROLL worth this cult status? Or is the film as stupid as it sounds? The answer may just surprise you all.
The Potter family move into a new apartment in San Francisco. While Harry Potter (Michael Moriarty) and his wife Anne (Shelley Hack) bring boxes into their new home, Harry Potter Jr.(Noah Hathaway) ignores his little sister, Wendy (Jenny Beck), hurting her feelings. Wendy stumbles into the basement of the apartment complex while playing, hearing noises. She investigates, but is attacked by a troll named Torok (Phil Fondacaro). The Troll assumes Wendy's identity with a magical ring, living with the Potter family to gain easier access to the tenants in the apartment complex. While Wendy's more animalistic behavior is seen as a phase by her parents, Harry Jr. realizes it's something more evil at work here. While Torok begins transforming the Potter's neighbors into trolls and other mystical creatures, Harry Jr. learns the truth from a witch living upstairs named Eunice St. Clair (June Lockhart [older]/Anne Lockhart [younger]) about Wendy's weird behavior and Eunice's history with Torok. The two form a friendship, that allows Eunice to guide Harry Jr. in killing Torok to save his sister, before Torok takes over the entire complex and creates his own troll world on Earth.
I first saw TROLL as a child and I really liked this film a lot. After watching it again for the first time in many, many years - I was shocked to be still entertained by this film. Yeah, it's very weird, cheesy, and twisted. But it's fun to watch this little troll run away and create a brand new world for himself at the expense of humans. I still don't get the purpose of why this troll chose that certain apartment building to take over. I still don't know why killing some big dragon would stop Torok from completing his mission. It's not a film with a strong plot or story that makes any logical sense. Even the ending was kind of rushed and fell flat. But something about TROLL is appealing. I think it's the fact that you can't take this film seriously, making your viewing experience quite more enjoyable than this film has any right letting you.
John Carl Buechler [who also did the make-up SFX and directed FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE NEW BLOOD] did a really good job directing the film. We get a lot of close-ups of the characters reacting to the silliness that is their situation. We get subjective POV shots of Torok when he's walking towards his victims. We get decent character development from the major players in the film. And while hokey on modern terms, the special effects and make-up aren't half bad. For an 80s movie, they're pretty good. Torok looked really cool in Troll form and some of the monsters, although looking like ugly plastic puppets, weren't horrible. The transformation scenes, especially the late Sonny Bono's [yes THAT Sonny Bono], aren't half-bad for the film's era. With the use of stop-motion technology, we kind of see the world of trolls come to life. It won't win any Academy Awards or anything, but it's so surreal to watch that it's actually charming as hell. Buechler handled himself well on a small budget. The man had a vision and went for it. Can't fault anybody for that.
The acting was pretty good as well. For an ensemble cast, it better be. Luckily, it didn't disappoint. Michael Moriarty, better known for his role on TV's LAW AND ORDER, was pretty funny as Harry Potter Sr. He seemed like those unhip dads that would still be cool because he was as childish as his children are. He was also a bit of a smartass, which I enjoyed. And the singing and dancing to Eddie Cocharan's "Summer Time Blues" is probably the highlight of the film in all the wrong ways. It's horribly sung and danced to that you can't keep your eyes off of the guy.
Shelley Hack, better known for TV's CHARLIE'S ANGELS, was okay as Anne Potter. She didn't really do much but have great reaction shots to things around her. For that, she did a good job.
Noah Hathaway, better known for his role in THE NEVERENDING STORY, was pretty good as Harry Potter Jr. He didn't annoy me like most teenage actors do and actually held his own against the weak script. Plus he could act, so I sympathized with his fear, frustration, and struggle to save his sister. I'm not sure what he's doing now but I liked him.
Jenny Beck as Wendy Potter was very good, especially since she spent most of the film growling, sneering, and eating food like a glutton. Usually child actors annoy me, but she didn't. Something about her was appealing and she had good scenes with everybody in the cast, especially Hathaway and Phil Fondacaro [in human form]. I read she won some kind of award for this role - and I think she was deserving of it.
Phil Fondacaro was good as Torok the Troll, but he was even better as Malcolm Malory, the dwarf English professor who was dying of cancer. He was the best actor of the group, giving a down-to-earth and honest performance that really doesn't have any right to be in this kind of film. But here it was and it was done exceptionally well. I was happy when Torok spared him of death and gave him a second chance at life as an elf. I guess even evil trolls have a heart every once and a while.
The cameos in the film were interesting as well. Sonny Bono mugged towards the camera every chance he got in his small role as a bachelor. Julia Louis Dreyfuss, in one of her first roles, played the beautiful neighbor who gets transformed into a nymph by Torok. Seeing her run around wearing nothing but ivy was definitely a highlight. Damn she looked hot! Speaking of hot, Anne Lockhart as the younger Eunice St. Clair was definitely an eye-pleaser. And she was sarcastic in nature too. Be still my heart. If only I had been a few years older when this film was released...where's that Troll when you need him lol? June Lockhart, better known as the mom on both LASSIE and LOST IN SPACE, was also great in this film as the older Eunice. She brought a touch of class in the film and had great chemistry with Hathaway and a mushroom puppet. I thought the eccentric casting created a very surreal atmosphere in general, but it worked for me.
THE FINAL HOWL
TROLL is a guilty pleasure for all ages. Children will love it. Adults will be amused by it. It's weird, twisted, funny, and decently acted. TROLL is definitely worth 90 minutes of your time.