IFFBoston: Best Worst Movie

27 April 2009, 6:10 am

Michael Stephenson, George Hardy

Best Worst Movie is instantly on my shortlist for year’s best movie. It’s the story of a low budget horror flick (Troll 2) that became a cult phenomenon, and how the cast and crew react to this after nearly 20 years. Lead man George Hardy is tremendously engaging. He radiates an almost supernatural level of good-humor and somehow manages to simultaneously revel in the attention and be a little abashed by it — a weirdly charming balance. Tracking down the cast in the present day offers surprises both funny and poignant. Interviews with Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso make one of the magic ingredients clear: Like Ed Wood Jr., Fragasso was trying to make a good movie, not a bad one. He and screenwriter/wife Rossella Drudi were grappling with important subjects like the importance of family and the rising sourge of vegetarianism. Like Paul Verhoeven with Showgirls, Fragasso doesn’t seem to think he did make a bad movie, and finds the attention now being paid to his film distinctly bittersweet.

The film is the authorial and directorial debut of Troll 2’s child star, Michael Stephenson. It also seems to be the first editing credit for Andrew Matthews. I find both of these facts hard to believe. Of the three documentaries I saw at IFFBoston 2009, this was by far the most sure-footed. I hardly have any constructive criticism — I thought the pacing was spot on, the running time was just about perfect, and the narrative flow was natural and unforced. In the Q&A after the screening, Stephenson talked about shaping the movie from 500 hours of raw footage. He discussed his craft like a guy who’s been making great documentaries for years (and basically made me impatient to explore the deleted scenes when Best Worst Movie is released on DVD.

I’ve only been ably to take in a tiny fraction of this year’s IFFBoston offerings — but from what I’ve seen, I’m hoping Best Worst Movie wins an audience choice award.

Note: It’s certainly not necessary to have seen Troll 2 to enjoy Best Worst Movie . . . but be prepared to want desperately to see it afterwards.

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