Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Catching up with 2010: Capsule Review - Best Worst Movie

Best Worst Movie is great if you’re a fan of Troll 2, but otherwise it’s a bit of a boring documentary that seems to be discovering the same thing over and over: the film has a cult following, and the actors are varying degrees of embarrassed about the film. The film is really about George Hardy; he’s a dentist who does good work for his Alabama community, but when he catches wind that Troll 2 is a popular roadshow film he decides to jump on the circuit and be a part of the mania. The most interesting thing about this overlong documentary is that Hardy sees the difference between cult fans in small venues and the type of horror fans that flock to large conventions. In the most telling scene from the film he converses with fellow “one-and-done” horror actors as an entire row of tables consists of people who appeared – briefly – in one of the Nightmare films. When Hardy sees this, and the subsequent rejection of his “stardom” (he’s basically reduced to pimping his own bad movie and merchandise), he promptly turns on the people that seem to adore him the most. The most salient point Best Worst Movie makes is, I suppose, that there are two types of horror fans, and the die-hards (read: the one’s willing to spend LOTS of money) see horror in its most non-ironic form, and this just doesn’t work for what Hardy is trying to do with the Troll 2 roadshow. There’s a reason why the people involved in the Upright Citizens Brigade are willing to pay George Hardy money for an appearance at their club, and why the dudes dressed up as Freddy and Jason at the major horror convention haven’t even heard of Troll 2. The reason for this is the most interesting part of the movie. If the documentary would have been a short – a film about the phenomenon of Troll 2 and bad movies in general – then it would have been an easy recommend. But as it is, Best Worst Movie is a mild recommendation for fans only. There’s just too much wasted time in the middle of the film, and I really disliked the tone of certain scenes where it felt the filmmakers (the person who directed the documentary was the child star of Troll 2) were just trying to embarrass the director (Claudio Fragasso) by showing how inept he was in not seeing the irony in the film. Now either that was a point of the film, or I was completely fooled by Fragasso who maybe understands the irony of the film’s appeal and just plays the straight man; however, I feel what many feel is what makes Troll 2 the best worst movie: it’s genuine. Therefore, I don’t think Fragasso is being ironic at all here, and that makes the scenes focusing on him even more painful to watch because here’s an entire room of people ripping on a man’s work in front of him, and he just doesn’t get it. I never thought I would feel sympathetic towards such a hack filmmaker, but damn if I didn’t feel that Fragasso was somewhat of a tragic figure by film’s end. I don’t think that was the filmmaker’s intent, though, and that confusion in tone is why I can’t fully recommend Best Worst Movie.


  1. Hi Kevin,

    Too bad you didn't enjoy Best Worst Movie as much as I did. I saw it at Hot Docs in 2009 and then saw it again the very next night. I had worried going into it that it would be filled with these damn kids "loving" Troll 2 in an ironic way, but the fans genuinely seem to love it - if not as a film masterpiece, then simply because they truly felt that the people making it TRIED to make something good.

    Fragasso is an interesting character to be sure...I think he does actually think he did good work on the film, but he does get a little defensive at times which indicates that maybe there's something else lurking there. I don't think the director is purposely putting him in harm's way - I think he's honestly wondering how Fragasso thinks he made a good film and wants to explore it with people who wouldn't really judge him. Granted, there was at least one (maybe more?) questions to him from audience members that were a little too pointed, so I see the uncomfortableness there. Of even more interest in some ways is the
    screenwriter Rossella Drudi who seems to honestly still think she wrote a masterpiece.

    There's a lot more going for the film though - it is funny as hell at times, a bit sad and certainly shows fan expositions in an interesting light. Hardy and Stephenson seem to approach things in, IMO, the proper way - we tried, we failed, yeah it's kind of funny...

    By the way, I still haven't seen "Troll 2". I'll catch up with it at some point, but I don't feel you need to have seen it at all to enjoy this.

  2. Bob:

    Thanks for the great comment. Your comment actually brought something up that I had completely forgotten about. I really disliked when Hardy and Stephenson (who, as you say, have the right attitude in how they approach their "legacy") went to visit the lady that played the mom. Stephenson really should have just alluded to the fact they visited her. Instead, they totally exploit her obvious mental illness for the sake of their film. Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but the scene just didn't sit right.

    As for Claudio and his wife...being the Italian horror fan that I am, I know that the filmmakers of these types of movie -- hack or no hack -- take them VERY seriously. It may just be the culture over there, but Umberto Lenzi has said the same thing about his awful "virus" movie, NIGHTMARE CITY. I do believe they think they made a good movie which is why I was hoping the scenes with the filmmakers and the fans would be more insightful; instead, the scenes just come off as jerk-ass fans of the movie looking to humiliate the man.

    Now, Fregaso is not off the hook. He is notorious -- as are most Italian horror filmmakers -- for being horrible to work for. But still, I think that Fregaso gets a bad shake from Stephenson and crew, who, again, should have just made a short, 80-minute doc about the phenomenon of the film and left the cynicism (or cruel barbs as I tend to see it) on the cutting room floor.