Troll – directed by John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII) – was released in 1986. It actually featured a relatively accomplished cast: Noah Hathaway (Battlestar Galactica & The NeverEnding Story) and Michael Moriarty (The Stuff) play father and son – ‘Harry Potter Sr.’ and ‘Harry Potter Jr.’
Also living in their building are Sonny Bono, Phil Fondacaro (Willow), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld), Brad Hall (SNL), and June Lockhart (Lost In Space). Not bad for a B movie…
The story starts with a new family moving in to an apartment building in San Fransisco. Shortly thereafter Wendy – the young daughter – is kidnapped by a Troll. He then uses a magic ring to disguise himself as Wendy. (It’s surprising to see the monster of the piece revealed and seen so clearly so early in the film.) Wendy begins to act very strangely – obviously because it’s not Wendy, but the Troll.
Due to Wendy running riot over the family – we get to meet (most of) the other residents of the building.
– There is the creepy, bachelor, swinger (played by Sonny Bono) who lives directly above them
– The testosterone filled ex-marine, who thinks intellectual pursuits lead to communism.
– The actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus; Right) who lives up stairs and gets no real character development beyond nice (there is also her boyfriend, played by her husband Brad Hall, but he doesn’t live in the building)
– The slightly grumpy older lady who lives right at the top of the building (June Lockhart);
– and the English Professor (Phil Fondacro) – who isn’t introduced until later in the film, and who happens to be a dwarf.
The Troll starts to go from apartment to apartment scaring the unpleasant inhabitants and transforming them into mythological beings. Bono gets attacked first. The Troll stabs each of them with a needle like protuberance from his ring. This makes them swell up and turn into ‘pods’, which open to release large amounts of plants and the creatures – little trolls in the cases of Bono’s character and the ex-marine.
Meanwhile, Wendy’s older brother,
Atreyu Harry, becomes convinced – rightly, of course – that Wendy isn’t Wendy. He confides in Eunice St Clair (June Lockhart) who is expecting trouble as she’s a witch. Something she admits (rather too quickly, to my mind) only on the second meeting between Harry and herself.
It transpires that the Troll is, in fact, Eunice’s former husband. A wizard who was transformed into a troll after being on the losing side in a war between good and evil humans and fairies in ancient times. He is now trying to turn the apartment building into a fairy dimension which, on total conversion of all the apartments and residents, will burst forth and take over the world.
It’s up to Harry to drive a spear through the center of the Troll’s magic world to save the Earth and his sister.
I would just like to point out here that it was about half way through the film that I realised that Harry (our hero) was called Potter. Junior admittedly, but Harry Potter non the less.
This is a Curate’s egg of a film. There are some parts I like very much and works well, and some parts that fall flat. I found it difficult, at the start, to care about any of the characters in the film. Even the newly arrived Potter family where hard to give a monkeys ass over. They were all either stereotypes of the worst kind, or so badly drawn that they were hardly there. This made the fates of the characters seem inconsequential. In fact most of them were far more interesting after they were transformed.
The story is fairly slight, but reasonably pleasing. It does feel a little rushed in places – the whole thing takes place over only three days. The film would probably benefited from an extra 10 or 20 minutes on top of its (approximately) 1 hour 20 minute run time.
The main failing I can see – and it took me a while to put my finger on it – is that, despite what they are trying to sell it as, Troll isn’t really a horror film. At least not a horror film for adults. Remove the Sonny Bono transformation scene and the swearing, and maybe tone down the creatures a bit (but not much), and what you get is a kids fantasy film.
A film that could sit quite easily with the likes of Gremlins, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story. That doesn’t make it a terrible film, just ‘Horror Light’.
2/5 Great Pumpkins.