October 6th -- Troll
One of the best things about each October is that it invariably reunites me with films that I might normally not see. Case in point, the Band family's puppet-fest, "Troll." The ludicrous Italian "sequel," "Troll 2," ,may get all the attention, but the original film is actually quite enjoyable, ableit excessively silly at times.
I remember loving the VHS box art to "Troll" when I was younger: what horror-inclined kid wouldn't love that creepy art with the vile-looking troll peeking around the corner of an open apartment door? The possibilities were positively endless! I don't recall how my younger self actually reacted to the movie but I'll never forget that box art. Many years down the road, I've revisited the film and found out one thing off he bat: the artwork is still as effective as ever!
"Troll" concerns an evil wizard, trapped in the body of the titular creature, who goes door-to-door in a small apartment building and turns the residents into...well, other things, for lack of a better word. To accomplish this, the troll takes the form of a young girl who's just moved into the building. Her brother deduces that something ain't right and sets out to get back his sister and defeat the troll, all in one fell swoop.
Playing this film straight could have resulted in an unintentional cheese fest. As it is, the filmmakers wisely inject some humor (okay, lots of humor) into the proceedings. The film can actually become quite silly, at times, but there's always a pretty decent horror element waiting just around the corner. The special effects are pretty good, although the repeated close-ups of creature effects do reveal the limitations of mid-80's practical effects. Nonetheless, there are several rather tense and atmospheric moments (I hesitate to actually use the word "scary"), such as when Sonny Bono literally becomes one with nature and the attack by the giant, winged bear-monster-thing.
Beloved genre staple Michael Moriarty turns in a decent, if rather uncharaceristically restrained, performance as the father and the troll, himself, possesses just the right measure of pathos and menace to really make the role work. He's an undoubtedly evil dude but, thanks to some nice facial work, he's also shown to be a lonely, sad dude, too. It's not a TON of character development, mind you, but it's more than you normally get in this time of film, on this kind of budget.
In the end, "Troll" is what it is: a fun little time-waster with some inspired casting choices (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Sonny Bono) and some pretty decent special effects. The puppet work can, at times, be quite impressive and there are a few moments of genuine menace in the proceedings. Horror fans out for a good time could do a lot worse. Steer clear of the "sequel," however, unless you fully intend on watching one of the most astonishingly bad films in history.