Troll 2

By Adam Lippe

troll2Here’s the idea behind “An American, a Canadian, and an Elitist”: Rhett’s favorite movie is “Meatballs 4”, Josh likes Hollywood pap, and Adam is a prick who hates everything. We all watch far too many movies, and spend our time analyzing them. So we each watch the same movie, write our analysis of them, and then go to a chat room to discuss it, unaware of what the others have written. A warning: if you haven’t seen the film we are discussing, it may not be best to read this article, because it is spoiler heavy.


Rhett Miller’s analysis.

Troll 2 is a socially significant pontification on a highly relevant contemporary issue. It addresses, like few films before it, the perils of eating disorders, and at the same time advocates a return to a vegetarian life in touch with the earth. It is with its bold allegory to trolls and to surrealism that the film addresses anorexia with a depth mostly unexplored in contemporary film. Made as the hedonistic 80s were reaching their apex, the film addresses our adulation with movie stars and on bodily perfection. It comes out of a time when John Travolta waxed his chest, and when workout gyms were all the rage. With physical appearance such an obsession in the 1980s (and still very much today), many people would thus feel pressured to severely alter eating habits in order to shape themselves into the stars they idolize. Out of this breeds anorexia.

The film sets up our idolization with celebrity with its first few shots, one of Darryl Strawberry (who had consumption problems of his own) on a pennant in Joshua’s room, and then another of Johnny Depp in Holly’s workout pad. It is out of these two people that the kids attempt to model themselves under. In a further attempt to mold her body to perfection, Holly is seen sweating during a weight lifting exercise. It is significant that Holly and Josh are never willingly eating throughout the film, Josh is forced to eat a bologna sandwich, but it is against his will. Whether the film be poisoned by goblins or out of the supermarket, a rampant fear of food consumption drives these children in an age where the human book could be judged only by the luster of its cover.

The trolls in Troll 2, actually goblins, offer the children a healthier alternative. The goblins are vegetarians, and advocate of a return to the earth, promoting the consumption of natural foods like corn and dairy. It is typical that only the children rebel against such a lifestyle, since the stigma of finishing one’s brussel sprouts still dogs the youth today. Since the trolls are visibly ugly, the children immediately assume that they are evil, since this is a generation raised on appreciating externalities rather than the strength of one’s character. The climax, where Josh forcefully bites into an unhealthy bologna sandwich and destroys the goblin population is particularly saddening. The goblins scream “think about the cholesterol!” as they perish away. It becomes clear that despite their horrid exterior, deep down they wish to purify these children. They are not the villains, our culture is to blame for our vapid obsession with looks and being skinny. The goblins sadly serve as scapegoats for a problem that the children choose to ignore.

It is with a great comeuppance that at the end the goblins get the last laugh, as they return to advocate the consumption of a healthier organic product. They offer Joshua’s mother as a sacrifice for his negligence to eat, because figuratively Josh destroyed his mother by thrusting his eating disorder upon her. Anorexia is not limited to the individual, it is a group process that can often tear apart the seams of a family. So despite a momentary return to normalcy when Josh eats the bologna sandwich, it is an ideal that cannot be sustained, since it is inevitable that he will fall back into the hands of disorder. The goblins offer the organic slime to Josh in a bid of goodwill to try and coax him back into eating, but of course he refuses. The fact that the film ends on Josh’s scream of horror speaks plenty about our society. Josh refuses not only to eat in the healthier manner that the goblins advocate, but he also denies himself the pleasure of food in general. In order to shape himself into the poster-boy goodness of Johnny Depp, he denies his innards the nutrients he required.

32234The goblins may be hideous to look at, but inside they are complete. Josh, and all of his contemporaries in the film however, suffer the slings of anorexia, sacrificing their mind for their body. The goblins’ return to demonstrate that anorexia is a problem that refuses to go away with today’s youth. As much as one might sweep it under the rug, it is a problem that paradoxically consumes those who deny themselves the gratification of consumption. It destroys families, lives and societies, and in an age where Britney and Christina show off their starving bodies the messages of Troll 2 become all the more relevant. This may just be the most important film of the last 25 years.


Josh Clarke’s analysis.

Nilbog is goblin spelled backwards. This is the height of cleverness that Troll 2 rises to. Of course they couldn’t let the audience relish this fact, they had to beat them senseless with it. “This is their kingdom!” the young hero announces proceeds to tell every single character in the film. Needless to say the level of intelligence required for this movie barely surfaces that of a mental midget, which makes me wonder whether this was intended as a kid’s movie.

435435Well known among the film viewing community as one of the worst movies ever made, one can contend that the targeted demographic is barely out of their Underoos. Yet the infrequent strong language and adult situations would argue otherwise. So a question arises: What the fuck were they thinking when they made this movie!? A quick scan on the IMDb of the filmmakers and their careers confirms these guys are veterans. They weren’t the writers of Apocalypse Now of course, but they had experience in filmmaking, experience that should have given them some idea of how to make a decent movie. And yet they were given a budget and distribution for a script that was the product of generations of inbreeding. It’s times like this that I don’t worry for my career as a filmmaker, and alternately piss my pants in fear.

Still, I remember viewing this movie as a child, and despite having subsequently forgotten I had viewed it (amnesia brought on by trauma?), I can honestly say there were things about this film that disturbed me. The popcorn scene was just so out there that I felt uncomfortable, and the idea of being incapacitated after turning into a human-plant hybrid is a bit unsettling. But the most wince-inducing part was the ending. There’s just something about a person calling out “Mommy” that upsets me. Maybe it’s due to my own close relationship with my mother, and the thought of losing her being unbearable. Maybe it’s seeing a young, innocent person crying out for matriarchal protection that causes me to flinch. Either way, for a movie as innocuous and laughable as Troll 2, its ending was unwelcomingly dark and pessimistic.

Don’t misunderstand me though. Other than the unintentional laughs, the reactions Troll 2 caused in me were nothing more than the raising of an eyebrow. Much has been written about films that are so bad they’re good, so I’ll save you all from rereading what has already been written. Suffice to say this film caused me to laugh, out loud, and occasionally hysterically. It’s a beer and pizza movie that you watch with your friends. I’d like to say I didn’t go out of my way to view this film, because I trekked through half of Philadelphia in search of, and to no avail. The Rhettster had to encode and send it to me via the Internet. I’d suggest doing similar.


Adam Lippe’s analysis.

“Oh my god, what’s happening to her? And why can’t I move? There must be a logical explanation for all of this!”

Deciphering the meaning of Troll 2 is like trying to get a prostitute to give you a freebie, it’s an impossible task and you might get herpes. Seemingly beginning in the middle of a sentence, the movie defies explanation, but I have a hard time believing that there wasn’t an ulterior motive to the making of it. The music of the opening “chase” is like video game music mixed with an episode of Hunter. But in a true utopia, every episode of Hunter would be as enlightening as Troll 2. There is a statement being made here, about inept parenting, bizarre rituals of travel (have you ever heard of a family randomly moving to the country to switch places with another family who moves into their home? Is this the new version of wife swapping?) and how sweets are bad for you.

This movie is so cruel, that the mother, as she reads off of cue cards, tells her son that he’s not allowed to remember his grandfather, and that he must “banish” him from his mind. She is one of the more intimidating figures in all of filmdom, it’s a shame she never acted in anything afterward. She has those terrifying eyes reminiscent of Meg Foster in They Live, where they almost seem a separate being, glowing and controlling your mind. She’s certainly more terrifying than anything else in the movie. Sure, she’s a stiff actress, but no worse than the scene between Holly and Elliot when he sneaks into her room. Especially the line where Holly gives him an ultimatum, either her or his friends. “I’m going now; And I’ll tell them.” This scene suggests what I was thinking throughout the film. These actors do not speak English. They have learned it phonetically, but cannot communicate in the language unless they are fed lines. It’s the only explanation as to why in nearly every scene, all of them put the wrong emphasis on words in a sentence. That Joe D’Amato was involved in the film, means only that there was an Italian and schlock influence, not the movie was filmed in Italy.

234234Troll 2 was also clearly the influence on a lot of different sources. Those Gatorade commercials where people sweat different colors was obviously inspired by Troll 2. When they are at their new home, and Joshua sees Grandpa Seth in the mirror, he says, “This is a bad place, Joshua. It even gives me the creeps.” “Tell me more, Grandpa.” This is clearly what motivated Paul Verhoeven to put those Would You Like to Know More? sequences in Starship Troopers. When Elliot’s friend goes shopping in his pink daisy dukes, yellow shirt and head band, are we supposed to believe that he’s looking for free and unattached girls? Clearly, this signals the beginning of accepted homosexuality, though the young man obviously feels that he will be judged if he comes out, but his friends do not bother him in the matter. The message of the film on the surface is that it’s only the power of goodness that can defeat the goblins. But what exactly is the power of goodness? I think it’s clear that in the same way that Battlefield Earth was considered a scientology film, Troll 2 should be thought of as an Atkins diet ad. How does Joshua defeat the goblins? He eats a bologna sandwich. Not just a regular bologna sandwich, but a double decker bologna sandwich. The goblins are trying to force their vegetarianism on everyone, the preacher talks extensively about the evils of meat, and they even use corn to try to kill someone. It also shows what hypocrites those vegetarians are. The corn is the only vegetable seen in the entire film, everything else is either spoiled milk or cake. And the goblins plan to eat their human captives, whom they’ve turned into plants. But they are still eating flesh, and so even then, meat can’t be avoided And with all that sugar, shouldn’t they be worrying about diabetes and not cholesterol? Even though this film claims it was made in 1990, I doubt that, it bears the mark of something much earlier. So I suggest that it also had an influence on Saved By the Bell, as evidenced by Grandpa Seth’s magic powers which allow him to freeze time for thirty seconds, similar to Zack Morris. When Holly has her little epileptic fit in front of the mirror and gives her “speech” about dropping her boyfriend, it clearly shows the negative effects of Flashdance on society.

Though Seth and the father, Michael, are not related by blood, it seems they have the same notions about men, as Seth refers to Michael as a good-for-nothing, as Michael says the same about Elliott.

Laura “Emmanuelle” Gemser did the “costumes,” because of her relationship with D’Amato, and it’s clear that she got her design degree in paper mache. There were a number of other things about Troll 2 that I didn’t understand or realize. The scene where Joshua has to use his skateboard to warn people, because his dad is unwakeable from his slumber. His dad is reading a book on vegetables, and it manages to put him out within seconds. Are legumes the new valium? In the scene where the kids are forced to drink the broth, personally, I had no idea that you could put a whole fog machine in a mug. When the preacher is burning, the stuntman is even less convincing than the one in Plan 9 From Outer Space, but how about those sound effects of him screaming? Isn’t the Stonehenge magic stone kind of redundant? The cop’s name is Gene Freak?

And remember… “Goblins still exist!”


The chat.

Rhett We should all be listening to the Troll 2 theme right now to get in the mood.
Adam I like the song they sing when they have the party.
Josh… an unsigned band called Epsilon Zero.
Adam la la la la la la la la   …Something like that.
Rhett I can’t remember that.
Josh What we should be listening to is that song the mother loves so much! I’ll start… row row row your boat
Adam out of sync.
Adam row row
Adam row
Rhett ROW
Josh gently down the stream
Adam row
Adam gently
Josh Ok, enough of that.
Adam row
Adam the stream
Rhett Alright, is that pissing scene not one of the best moments in bad movie history?
Josh Is that seriously the only way to prevent someone from eating?
Adam Universally effective.
Josh I guess I’d stop…
456546Rhett Although we learned in Waterworld that it is okay to drink urine, Josh, at least once.  So technically they still could have eaten it.
Adam It’s a necessity, anyway.
Josh Well would you drink someone else’s urine or your own? There’s a difference.
Rhett And I love how all the goblin food is green.
Adam Since I bet we all had a difficult time taking our analysis seriously, I had a question. Was this movie anti-vegetable?
Rhett You’d think they’d be a little more nondescript about it.
Josh Well yeah man, this movie obviously has an anti-vegetarian allegorical slant.
Adam That was how I read it.
Rhett Actually, I would argue the other way.
Adam It was an Atkins diet propaganda movie. Bologna sandwich saves the world.
Josh I think it was anti-semetic, Mel Gibson’s father would back me up on that one.
Rhett Clearly thinking from a survival standpoint, the goblins would be the ones to prevail, since they choose a healthier diet.
Adam Not only was the food green, but all they ate was candy. One vegetable in the whole movie, that was the corn.
Josh Yeah, but think of it this way.  Goblins = bad   Humans = good    Goblins eat vegetables.   Humans eat… well, meat. Therefore, if a=b and b=c
Adam Only the power of meat can defeat the goblins. And obviously, all those vegetables make the goblins horny. “They’re eating my mom!”
Rhett Goblins are more in touch with the natural world though. We are more into the synthetic, and it is destroying us. The goblins offer a return to the earth, literally by transforming those who have gone fowl by eating cholesterol, into trees.
Adam The humans they’re turning into plants, aren’t still going to be meat? They may have branches for legs, but I distinctly saw flesh.
345435Josh That nerd wasn’t completely wooden when they pureed him.
Rhett Given more time, I am sure he would have gotten a woody.
Josh Bad Rhett. Bad.
Adam I liked how when the goblins were eating, you could see the actors behind the masks mouth’s moving, but not the mouths of the masks at all.
Josh I love how the eyes were just fixed straight ahead. Or in the case of the Marty Feldman goblin, all over the place.
Rhett The best double standard line though was when the grandfather said: “touch it, Joshua, only touch it!”
Adam Well all of the familial stuff was so creepy. The mother, who is the most frightening person in the whole movie, was telling Joshua to banish the memory of his grandfather.
Josh I also like the homosexual undertones.
Rhett The film seems to advocate a neo-homosexuality, induced by getting punched in the beanbag.
Josh And who knew that getting kneed in the nuts makes you a f**?
Adam And wearing really short shorts and a headband.
Josh And the two guys in bed together half naked.
Rhett The grandfather clearly has to symbolize a child molester… And the fact that they are forcing all these guys to drink a white creamy substance.
456234Adam It’s probably not an accident that the kids see him in the mirror, as they see themselves in him. Future child molesters.
Josh I think we’re looking far too much into this movie.
Rhett Definitely not. I mean, the food thing is definitely there.
Josh Oh yeah, the food, I see.
Adam The homosexuality is too.
Rhett But come on, the grandfather is a sick freak. Always telling people to deny his existence, telling the kid to touch it and convincing him to whip it out.
Josh You know there were points I actually was surprised; Near the beginning when you realize the grandfather is dead, and later on when the boy is stabbed through the stomach with a tree branch.
Adam And the grandfather keeps telling Joshua that it will be the last time he can see him, and yet he shows up over and over anyway, destroying his hope with all those filthy lies.
Rhett And why can’t the grandfather tell it is not Joshua in that room when he talks to Holly? He can stop time, yet for this one instance he cannot see?
Adam Because he is mesmerized by her dancing…Or epileptic fit.
Josh I know I was.
Josh How was your 80’s boner on that one Rhett?
Rhett The part I laughed the most at, is when Holly just goes to her boyfriend and punches him out.
Adam Yes, that was brilliantly random.
Rhett Not provoked at all. He hadn’t even seen her.
Adam As if that would be a convincing reason to stop seeing his friends.
Josh His friends weren’t really that cool anyway.
Adam “Wait, I don’t understand.”
Rhett Well, she does work out, you know.
Adam No, she has seizures. Grandpa Seth is always waiting around just in case, carrying around a wooden spoon.
Josh Is it wrong that I found the women in this movie hot?
Rhett No, I would definitely harpoon Holly.
Adam I think he meant during the popcorn scene.
Josh I liked the Elvira chick when she wasn’t so goth.
Rhett And the priest looked like a mix between Kane Hodder and Billy Ray Cyrus
Josh Well there goes my hard on. Thanks Rhett… So, is the popcorn victim dead? Or is he there to this day laying under a pile of Act II?
Adam Yeah, that’s totally not clear.
Rhett I love how the popcorn clearly comes from off-screen, rather than from the actual corn.
Josh It’s like every crew member is just throwing bags of the shit.
3658375Adam All two crew members.
Josh Well obviously they hid that in editing.
Rhett And the kid also says, “Grandpa Seth, please cum!” Which I found again to tap into the molester theme.
Adam I know when I go to Europe again, I want to visit the Stonehenge Magic Stone.
Josh Adam, just make sure to pack plenty of Oscar Meyer.
Adam And perhaps bring along Gene Freak, just to laugh at odd moments.
Josh Oh man, I didn’t stop laughing at that for … well about 30 seconds. But it was really funny for that half minute.
Adam He can properly determine which girls were free and unattached, and which weren’t.
Rhett We also get homoerotic subtext with the corn.
Adam Was the corn going to end up in the kid’s ass?
Rhett How the boy takes it in his mouth like a phallus and then at the peak of excitement it bursts out with corn. The troll also sticks the one guy with a spear.
Josh In the shoulder.
Rhett Still, it is a phallic object entering his body.
Adam Well I learned from House of the Dead that you can kill people if you attack their shoulder only.
Josh The milk is chunky… How does that fit into your theory, Rhett?
Adam Where does the milk come from, exactly, as I saw no farm animals?
756345Josh Well according to the father, farmers sleep during the day.
Rhett The film advocates that we swallow semen, rather than spit.
Adam Hmm… Endless semen….And the father does heavily resemble Peter North.
Josh Maybe a cross between Peter North and Barry Bostwick.
Rhett And Paul Verhoeven.
Josh And the dad in Near Dark.
Rhett I have a question. Has anyone ever tightened their belt buckle to avoid hunger pains?
Adam I like how the next morning, the father and Joshua are all chummy. Despite the fact that he just pissed all over last night’s dinner.
Rhett I was waiting for the “who pissed in your cornflakes” line to come up.
Adam And then when they go into town, apparently that book on vegetables he’s reading is so fascinating, that he falls asleep instantaneously, and Joshua can’t wake him up.
Rhett What do we make of the symbolic title of Nilbog?
Josh I think Nilbog is goblin spelled backwards. But I’d have to look it up… Not that I got that from the 400 fucking times they said it throughout the movie.
Rhett I still do not understand why anyone would name their town Nilbog. Like would a human ever name their town Namuh!!!
Adam I’d like to be able to look it up, but I can’t move. I can’t move. There must be some sort of rational explanation for all of this.
Josh Yeah, seriously…. you think the goblins would be a little more creative, like New Stonehenge or something.
Rhett Yeah, Nilbog, the green slime, the hideous visage…They aren’t really concealing much.
Adam And when they don’t have visitors, do they eat each other?
Rhett That’s another thing, who the fuck would want to go there for a vacation?
Adam And how can I go about a city/farm exchange? Despite the fact that I know nothing about farming.
Josh And why would you want a bunch of country bumpkins getting their inbred genes all over your shit?
Adam Well when you have all the major conveniences, you can obviously afford to replace them. You know, video, microwave, non-wooden dildo.
Josh If you can afford to replace them, can’t you afford to vacation in fucking Florida?
Rhett And why are they goblins and not trolls?
Josh Rhett, that’s obviously a question we are not qualified to answer?
Rhett Hobgoblins 2 would have been a more fitting title. They could have ranked side by side on the IMDB worst list.
Josh Right, if you’re going to write a non-related sequel to a shitty movie, why not at least try for namesake?
Adam Which came out first?
Rhett Hobgoblins was in ’87.
43523443Rhett I love how the father just automatically blames Holly’s sighting of her grandfather on dope.
Josh If I can say one thing about this movie, it was actually shot competently.
Rhett I honestly liked Troll 2.
Adam I couldn’t say that.
Josh I didn’t say it was shot well.
Adam But the DVD transfer was way too good for it.
Josh I’m just saying there weren’t glaring cinematography mistakes.
Adam Apart from everything that appeared in front of the camera.
Rhett I thought the opening montage was awesome.
Josh Yeah, I actually felt the opening was somewhat atmospheric.
Adam I loved the music of the opening scene. And how the movie begins completely in the middle of a thought.
Josh Well Adam, that’s what happens when you film a botched SS experiment.

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4 comments on “Troll 2”

  1. It was hard to tell where these reviews fit in with the resurgence of interest in “Troll 2” as a cult film. The tone of them, especially the banter between the three critics, felt unaware of other interpretations of the film that have already pervaded cultdom, making me think they were amongst the first published criticisms released since the film’s initial release. All told, this was a fun read with just enough serious judgment amidst the plentiful joking to make reading it worthwhile.

    I’d take issue with the Atkins interpretation, because, well, seriously, it’s a bologna SANDWICH and sandwiches require bread, a carbohydrate. Yes, there’s a lot of meat on that sandwich, but it’s stacked between a serious heaping of starch, so no. That’s out.

    Given Troll 2’s basis in the Reagan era, it seems abundantly clear that the Italian filmmakers had political axes to grind and no part of American culture feels safe here. Whether it’s backwoods Southern religious psychos or progressive vegetarians, there’s a sense that civilization, in toto, has gone awry. Stonehenge being a symbol of Great Britain and thereby the Western narrative, I suggest the scene where little Joshua approaches the church to fully elucidate the ideological heart of this film.

    Carrying a “Flyaway” skateboard, Joshua walks right past an anarchist symbol on one of the pillars and into the structure, where the seat of Western ideology plays out in a display of Scarlett-Letter-cum-Children-of-the-Sun lunacy. Indeed, this film is about the loss of hunter-gatherer society, which gave way to agrarianism, irrigation and ultimately land ownership. Nomadic/polygamous/polytheistic man was wiped out and in his place grew monogamy, monotheism, manufacturing, consumption, debt and endless war. Joshua and his nuclear family become then the last great hope for Western civilization. But to fully realize their charge they must destroy the entire system, rejecting the extremes of conservatism and progressivism. In that sense, the bologna sandwich isn’t some metaphor for pro-meat dieting or an advert to convince young people of the ills of anorexia. Nay, it is a symbol of the edible wasteland that lay beyond the self-imploding institution all around. For when the nuclear holocaust comes to pass, only cockroaches and processed meat shall survive and this film will stand as a testament to how the ’80s predicted both the ecstasy and the rage of the 1990s.

  2. “Children of the Corn,” I meant…

  3. Adam Lippe says:

    “It was hard to tell where these reviews fit in with the resurgence of interest in “Troll 2″ as a cult film. The tone of them, especially the banter between the three critics, felt unaware of other interpretations of the film that have already pervaded cultdom, making me think they were amongst the first published criticisms released since the film’s initial release.”

    Correct. This piece was originally written in April of 2004. The giveaway is the reference to Mel Gibson’s father being anti-Semitic, not Mel Gibson himself.

  4. Ah.

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On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.