Russian novelist, historian, Gulag survivor, and all-around inspiring fellow Aleksander Solzhenitsyn once wrote, "Some things lead beyond words. Art inflames even a frozen, darkened soul to a high spiritual experience." I'm not sure what exactly he was talking about, but he could very well have been attempting to describe the experience of watching "Troll 2," an almost offensively shoddy horror film made 26 entire years ago. "Troll 2," which features no trolls (but perhaps too many goblins), is a film for all occasions, whether it be a first date with a vegan from Tinder, a pick-me-up after getting laid off, or anything between those two poles of an arbitrary spectrum. Simply put, "Troll 2" is the Truth. The weird, low-budget, frayed-ends-of-sanity Truth.
On the off chance that you are one of the few people in America completely unaware of this misshapen gem, here's the setup: A family from the city prepares for a home swap in which it will temporarily exchange homes with counterparts from "the country" for an undisclosed amount of time. The family is composed of a goofy earnest dad (George Hardy), a frigid and sort of frightening mom (Margo Prey), a rebellious teenage daughter named Holly (Connie Young), and our hero, young Joshua (Michael Stephenson) who occasionally (actually often) sees the ghost of his dead grandpa (Robert Ormsby), who spends most of his time being cryptic and not seeming to have any control over his behavior. Holly's love interest Elliot (Jason Wright) and three of his friends—each goofier than the last—also stow away with the family on their inexplicable trip to the mysterious town of Nilbog (!). Holly delivers one of the best lines in cinema history to Elliot very early in the film: "If my father discovers you in here he'd cut off your little nuts and eat them. He can't stand you!" That is some good stuff.
By word of mouth and VHS hand-me-downs, "Troll 2" earned its dedicated audience the hard way, and that in and of itself is a beautiful thing: bringing together a community from what was essentially wreckage and failure. The film is a doddering anti-vegetarian cluster-fuck populated with amateur actors and burlap-sack-wearing goblins, but its stupidity is so earnest and full of joy that when you watch it the world is briefly repaired. You owe it to yourself to sit in a crowded theater with other human beings that have been moved and inspired by this accidental triumph. The heart yearns to be lifted up. "Troll 2's" sublime stupidity achieves this. It has never let me down.
Four years ago I moved to Baltimore from the Bay Area. I brought one suitcase full of clothes, my cat Roast Beef, three books, and four DVDs. One of those DVDs was my copy of "Troll 2" (its inferior predecessor "Troll" is on the flip side of the disc). For whatever dumb reason, it was important not to leave this behind. Something I didn't dare try to put into words, but nonetheless felt true. Michael Stephenson, the now fully grown man who played Joshua, recently messaged me after I acted the fanboy to him on Twitter for a bit. He mentioned how the film had a track record of bringing folks together, writing, "I have met couples whose first date was TROLL 2 ---- and now they are married. It's a wild world."
A wild world, and sometimes a good one. Go watch "Troll 2." It's very bad and very great.
"Troll 2," directed by Claudio Fragasso, is playing at The Charles Theater on Jan. 28 at 9 p.m.