Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Troll (1986)

Did you know that once upon a time a troll was a mythical creature and not just some bored dickcheese on the internet? Weird, right? But it's all true. They tried eating goats...and failed. Went after gallant fellowships...and died. They even became grotesque yet popular charms that most women became fascinated with...and Justin Timberlake is going to play one. And I am fairly certain they went through a weird phase in the 90s were they got a very interesting makeover.

Not gonna lie, I still want to own these things. Pure plastic insanity.

But for me, when I hear about trolls my mind goes back to a particular tale from my youth. The story of a young man who found himself learning from a wise magical mentor to rise against a magical foe who had hurt his family and threatened everyone he cared about. A young man named Harry Potter. Yes, that's right, I'm telling you the first Harry Potter film came out in 1986 and it was about him fighting a troll in an apartment building. Featuring Sonny Bono as that horny guy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the hottie next door. Jokes aside, yes, this is real and yes, there is an actual troll in it rather than a bunch of goblins. That's Troll 2 and we're not talking about that beautiful abomination just yet.

We'll get there though. I just can't stay away from neon green things.
I also lied just a bit, as we don't get Harry Potter in this movie. We get Harry Potters in this movie. That's right, two characters both named Harry Potter, because we must cause as much confusion as possible for fans of books that were not yet written when this movie came out. It is funny to note the weird similarities though, something I actually went over many years back over on Cinema Crazed. I figure that Rowling probably did get some inspiration from this movie too, which is fine. What is less fine is that I don't recall ever seeing her admit to that though. I'm not the "give proper credit" police though, it's just a tad bit disappointing as a fan of her work. That aside, let's see where the seed of the multi-billion dollar franchise began and enjoy some classic 1980s silly fantasy horror at the same time.

"DON'T FORGET TO GRAB YER BALLS!"
Oh lord, that reference made my soul hurt... The story opens on the Potter family moving into their new apartment building in beautiful San Francisco, where they can apparently see a view that is only visible...from the water. Alright, let's ignore that, because honestly? It's going to be the least insane thing happening here. So, the Potters are made up of Harry Potter Sr., Anne Potter, Wendy Potter, and Harry Potter Jr., and they get to be introduced to the majority of the weird neighbors during this opening. And by that I mean they get to meet a military guy and Sonny Bono.

Are we supposed to be scared of the troll or him? Because I'm getting confused.
What about that troll? Well, rather than just beat around the bush, let's get to his backstory right now. You see, he was once an powerful and benevolent sorcerer named Torok who lived in a big cool fantasy land and had a great life with the woman he loved. But there was a big divide between the faeries and humanity that ultimately resulted in war. As punishment for I guess helping start the whole thing, he was turned into a troll and told he must forever wander the streets of San Francisco's bay area.

Really, this building has to actually be in the water for this view to exist. Or on Alcatraz. What's the rent on island prisons?
Of course, this means that our titular creature is actually a grown man in the body of a creature, meaning that when he attacks a young girl, it's just kind of creepy. Not in the spooky way, but more in the "white windowless van with FREE CANDY & PUPPIES painted on the side" way. Torok whammies Wendy and then replaces her, meaning he can turn into people. Why doesn't he just turn into himself? I mean, sure, he looks like the lovechild of Rob Reiner and Trevor Philips, but at least that's not a hairy little creature wandering around. But whatever, he's a little girl now. Hopefully she's a good actor and this won't turn annoying.

Oh, look at me, opening my big fucking mouth. This is our movie now.
Yeah, Wendy/Torok is quite possibly one of the most irritating things ever. She's loud, annoying, and basically every terrible thing you can imagine about children rolled into one tow-haired package, ready to haunt me throughout this review. Now that she's been replaced, she begins to act like a fucking crazy person rather than the reasonably well-behaved girl we saw before. This fact is only notable to her brother, Harry Jr., as his parents are too busy being either oblivious or dancing around like they're Crispin Glover waiting for Jason Voorhees to pop in.

You know, Harry Potter's adult years are a lot stranger than I expected.
Enter Eunice St. Clair, the one person who will listen to Harry Jr. talk about his sister being kind of off. Why? Well, Eunice is used to weird shit, as she once had the ability to talk to a dog and was even lost in space. Okay, no, it's because she's a witch. Not only is she a witch, she's Torok's ex and was ordered to keep an eye out for his shenanigans here in the mortal world. Sadly, Harry Jr. is a bit slow on the draw and keeps thinking his sister is an alien, but to be fair he keeps seeing movies on television about that. Anyway, what's our irritating troll girl thing up to? Oh, nothing much...just turning Sonny Bono into a pickle.

Looks like that reunion with Cher is gonna have to wait.
Yeah, Torok is going from apartment to apartment, gradually turning the various tenants into either faeries or pickle things that crack open and sprout a damn forest. No, really, that's what happens. Sonny Bono mutates into a giant pickle and he then opens up, releasing various vines that then grow into a apartment forest. The person who seems to get off best is Julia Louis-Dreyfus as she really just turns into a magical less-clothed version of herself, because we have to squeeze some sex appeal in here somewhere. It sure isn't going to come oozing out of Forest Pickle Bono. other notable additions to the building are: a horrible giant bat monster and a chorus of creatures that look like the wandered off the set of Ghoulies. And I do mean chorus, as they sing. Yes, we have singing puppets monsters.

I'm finally getting to see the people who fill my inbox with hate mail. Seems about right.
But nevermind all of that other nonsense, because there's one reason why this movie is being highlighted: Phil Fondacaro. Yes, Phil wanders into the movie after saving Torok/Wendy's life and befriending what he believes to be a little girl. He plays Malcolm Malory, a college professor who also lives there and he is, with a single doubt, the best actor in the film. He treats his role with genuine respect and is so likable that it hurts to know the man never really broke out of B-movies. And yes, he is the same actor in the troll costume, but that takes nothing away from his role as Malcolm. Malcolm is invited to dinner and the fact that he's dying comes up. Wendy/Torok and he hang out some in his place, which is a lot less creepy than it sounds, and he talks about how when he was young he always wished he could've been an elf. Guess what happens next?

If you guessed that he got turned into a wet puppet and we don't get any more lines from him, congratulations!
So, let's try and sum up this remaining lunacy. Eustice is a witch, Harry Jr. wants her to teach him magic, her troll wizard ex is turning people into faeries and pickles, there's a mushroom with a face on Eustice's desk that apparently taught her everything, and if everyone in the building gets transformed then Torok wins and we're all going to live in faerie-land again. After Eustice gets young, she goes to take on Torok and...gets turned into a stump.

I don't think Lassie can help her this time.
Now it all falls to young Harry to save his sister, his parents, Eustice, and the world. He goes into one of the apartments, which is now just a gateway to a faerie world, and finds his sister sleeping in a magical barrier. He frees her, but the big horrible monster Torok made to guard everything shows up to fuck Harry's steez. Things suddenly change though when it turns to attack Wendy, which Torok is not cool with, forcing him to essentially beat himself by doing what Harry was there to do. Thus, the day is saved, the Potters decide to move again, and Torok starts the whole thing again when a cop wanders into the faerie portal at the end.

"Well, that was weird."
Not gonna lie, that was a very weird sit. It always is, as this is probably the 300th or so time that I've sat down with this film since my first time seeing it as a child. To be honest? I like it better now than I did then. It's a truly strange movie with interesting puppets and a few good performances that are far too good for a movie about a troll changing people into giant forest pickles. I know the entire thing by heart, from the singing puppet scene that comes out of nowhere to the awkward dance scene of Michael Moriarty. And by the way, Eustice did get turned back human. Everyone else? Nope. Guess they're all just stuck being whatever now.

Including poor Phil Fondacaro, who is always too good of an actor for what he's in.
Do I recommend it? Hell yes! Did you miss Sonny Bono getting turned into a GIANT FOREST PICKLE?! This movie is a lot of fun and is one of those films that wanders into the "more kid-friendly" side of horror, which makes it a good introduction to the medium for any young impressionable youths in your life. I'd definitely recommend easing them in with something like this rather than jumping straight into Critters or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Will I do the "sequels"? Probably, but not right now. Right now I am going to go find something to eat and prepare for the next magical journey. Michael Moriarty will be there too. Later days, bleeders.

"Buh-bye!"

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