Taking Fans Behind the Scenes in ‘Best Worst Movie’

Best Worst Movie (Michael Stephenson, 2009) opens with an extended sequence about the life of affable dentist George Hardy. Everyone likes him, he enjoys his job, and even his ex-wife likes him. Then, right around the five-minute run-time mark, we hear the key question posed to his mother: “What do you think of your son’s performance in Troll 2?”

That perfectly timed question and her laughing reply of, “He’s no Cary Grant,” set up the well-humored documentary directed by Michael Stephenson, the child star who also appeared in Troll 2. At one time Troll 2 carried the infamous distinction of being at the top of the worst list on IMDb. Best Worst Movie explores the phenomenon of the fandom that built up around Troll 2, showing how people have come to enjoy it through repeated viewings, creating video games, engaging in cosplay, and even writing sequels. While Stephenson held a key role in the film, he chooses to give the charismatic Hardy the center stage in this documentary.

In particular this film follows the screening tour and convention appearances of the film and of many of the actors in the film. Stephenson allows them to express their views on the roles they played, to share their reactions upon seeing it, and to update everyone on the current state of their lives. The screening tour amazes the actors, Hardy particularly, and just how much the fans get into the film and the different scenes, and have the fans recite the lines and re-create the scenes as part of the fun. After all, as Hardy’s character says, “You can’t piss on hospitality. I won’t allow it!”

Stephenson also interviews people in the production, including the writer, the composer, and the director. Just as with the actors, they all are surprised at the success of the film with fans despite the strong negative reaction from critics. As the director Claudio Fragasso states, “The incredible thing about Troll 2 is that the public took it back.” He is incredulous at the fans waiting in line and the reception the film receives at the screenings, but later he shows his judgmental side, heckling the actors and commenting on their poor performances. Writer Rossella Drudi shares how she developed the premise for the film because many of her friends became vegetarians at the same time and this made her mad.

As much as Best Worst Movie focuses on the fun of fandom, it does raise the question that some people hesitate to ask: Why do people who appeared in sequel numbers four, five, and six go to the conventions? Even Hardy himself explains how it seems to get old after a while.

Stephenson ends his documentary where it began, with George Hardy and his life in Alabama. While Hardy is willing to act again, he remains grateful for his happy life there.

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