8/2/07

R021 Troll 2

(1990, Horror/Fantasy, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson and Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka

The shocking true story of Treebeard.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Joshua’s undead grandfather helps him fight a tribe of man-eating goblins.

Summary:

Not an image from the film.Joshua’s mom worries about him because visions of her dead father keep visiting her son in the night to tell him gruesome tales of man-eating goblins. These stories are not without purpose, however, since the whole family is about to embark upon a vacation adventure in Nilbog. (“Goblin spelled backwards!” Joshua cries later, in a promising bid for the title of Least Shocking Revelation of All Time.) Nilbog is a picturesque country town dedicated to vegetarianism, hospitality, and human sacrifice. An en route nightmare about turning into a tree confirms it; Joshua must convince his family to turn back.

They arrive anyway, and the unfriendly family whose farmhouse they will borrow has left a huge vegetarian spread covered in green paste to welcome their next victims...er, guests. Undead Grandpa shows up at the door with a warning and an explanation: Goblins can only eat plant/human hybrids, and since these do not occur naturally, they make their own. He went on from there, but at this point I blacked out from the abject stupidity; when I came to a few minutes later, I found I had written the following expository haiku:

Delicious green paste
Makes you sweat lime Gatorade.
Now you’re goblin food.

Of course Joshua must stop his family from eating at all costs. He does this by yanking down his pants to take a big, steaming whiz all over the tainted provender. It gets thrown out, and Joshua is grounded for the rest of the day.

Grandpa’s disembodied head pops in and out of mirrors a couple of times, but aside from that, the night passes almost uneventfully. Next morning, the family discovers there’s no other food in the house. Joshua and his dad head into town to buy more. All the stores are closed, though, as the whole town has gathered in a barn to hear a sermon about the evils of meat. (Specifically: the evils of people who are made of meat.) The townspeople discover Joshua spying on them; they hold him down and try to force feed him some of their magic plant-person formula. Joshua’s dad arrives to prevent them. He makes excuses and they leave very quickly.

On the way home, they see Joshua’s older sister fighting with her boyfriend...

Oh, yes. The subplot. Joshua’s older sister has a whiny boyfriend who has followed them to Nilbog with a camper full of his loser friends. Said loser friends are a source of conflict in their budding relationship, as he brings them with him everywhere, even on their dates and midnight rendezvous. By the time Joshua and his dad arrive, two out of three loser friends have already been picked off by the local druidess, who rules the goblin townsfolk with her magic stone.

(Friend One sprouts leaves, gets planted in a large flowerpot, and is subsequently chainsawed to pieces. These pieces are later blended into green paste and fed to Friend Two, whose ultimate fate didn’t make the movie’s final cut.)

Tastes like hospitality.  And death.Like all the other goblins in town, the druidess is a shapeshifter, and alternately appears as a schoolmarm, sex kitten, hag, and bulbous-headed freak. These forms have one element in common, though—the actress playing all of them hams it up like five Jim Carreys simultaneously shifting into overdrive. The overwhelming stench of her overacting caused me to black out again; I woke up to find I had written another rank bit of derivative verse:

Goblins, goblins everywhere
And don’t they look a fright?
Goblins, goblins everywhere
With not a troll in sight.

Anywho, Loser Boyfriend breaks up with his last surviving friend (who subsequently drowns in sensuous popcorn...don’t ask me for more details, I just can’t bring myself to provide them) and runs off with Joshua’s Sister and her family. Upon returning to the farmhouse, they find that all the townsfolk have gathered to apologize for their earlier behavior with green paste-covered cake and a country hoedown. Joshua’s dad forgives them; he and his family sit down for some down-home vegetarian farm cookin’. Fortunately, Undead Grandpa shows up just in time to prevent them from eating. He immolates the goblin preacher with a Molotov cocktail. Dad runs to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, but recoils in horror when the crispy corpse reverts to its freakish true form.

Enraged, the remaining townsfolk lock the family in the house with a bag of green paste sandwiches. Joshua’s family is promised the following: if they partake and turn into plant people, they will be quickly and painlessly eaten. If they refuse, they will be slowly and painfully killed. Joshua finds both these options unacceptable; he organizes his beleaguered family to hold a séance, by means of which they will summon Undead Grandpa to rescue them once more.

Several dozen candles and ethereal pleadings later, Grandpa teleports Joshua directly into the druidess’ church-like home. With his time on Earth running out for some reason, he gives Joshua a backpack for “when you really need it” and instructs him to press his hands against the magic stone until its power is destroyed. Joshua does so until the druidess and all her bulbous-headed goblin minions arrive to prevent him. As they close in to force feed him green paste, Joshua reaches into the magic backpack and pulls out...a bologna sandwich! The goblins recoil in horror as he takes several bites and puts his hands on the stone again. Meanwhile, Mom, Dad, Big Sister, and Loser Boyfriend have escaped the farmhouse. Somehow they know exactly where Joshua has gone and how to help him, a plot hole so inexplicably, gapingly wide that I blacked out again:

Goblins to the right of them!
Goblins to the left of them!
Goblins in front of them!
Into the church-house of death went the four morons!

(I was particularly alarmed by this creation, since the deteriorating quality of my verse was undoubtedly a symptom of a deepening Troll 2-induced madness; a madness which, if left unchecked, might soon become irreversible. Fortunately, I was almost to the end.)

Waving the bologna sandwich like a protective talisman, they press their hands against the stone until the druidess and her goblins wink out of existence. They drive home, exhausted from their ordeal. Dad goes to clear something up at work while Big Sister and Loser Boyfriend head back to Loser Boyfriend’s house, leaving Joshua and his mom alone. Joshua goes up to his room, where he starts to say a prayer of gratitude to Undead Grandpa. Strange noises from downstairs interrupt him. He heads to the kitchen where he finds that goblins have turned Mom into a plant woman, and even now are feasting on her gooey green entrails. One of the goblins looks up to offer him some. Joshua screams.

Brought to you by the National Bologna Sandwich Association.

Thoughts:

Also not an image from the film.Okay, I didn’t really black out while watching this movie. The real reason I wrote verse instead of taking notes is that the following would not stop running through my head:

We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?

“Wow,” you are now saying to yourself. “That’s a lot better than the crap you wrote for the summary.” This is because it’s an excerpt from Goblin Market by a Victorian writer named Christina Rossetti. Her poem is about a tribe of fruit-selling goblins whose wares make women starve themselves to death after eating it. I wondered (very briefly) if the filmmaker had intentionally cribbed from Rossetti’s work, but Troll 2 takes the whole “goblins try to force-feed people their deadly produce” thing in a quite different direction. Goblin Market, for instance, is quite clearly a metaphor for the way Victorian promiscuity destroyed young women. Troll 2, on the other hand, isn’t even clear enough to be a metaphor for itself, though I suppose if you squint at it really hard, you could take it as the strangest argument against vegetarianism ever made.

At this point I could tell you that Troll 2 is nonsensically written, laughably acted, insultingly puerile, and exuberantly presented. Or I could tell you that it’s a low-budget Italian fantasy, which encapsulates all of the above.

Joining Mike for the Rifftrax commentary is Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka, an internet celebrity most famous (or infamous) for his humor site, SomethingAwful.com. The first thing you will notice about Lowtax is that he is no voice actor, especially when you compare him to the vastly more experienced Mike. The second thing you will notice about Lowtax is that he has almost all of the funniest lines. When a loser friend tries to impress a girl by stopping her from running away, he says, “Chicks really dig it when you tackle them and smash their face into the sawgrass.” When the druidess explains that the girl is turning into a plant-woman, he shrieks, “She’s Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom!” As the end of the film approaches, he also becomes violently upset at the movie’s utter lack of trolls. Mike occasionally throws in too with observations about the way Goblins meet their demises: “Death with dignity? Not an option for these guys.” By itself, this nonsensical, slime-coated film would be excruciating, but with the commentary, it’s a lot of fun.