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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Troll 2, or: The Family That Summons Together

I’m quite happy to skip most media that reliably generates memes, especially since becoming a meme or a gif seems to be an end unto itself. As loyal readers of this blog know (all…3.5 of you?), your Blog Collab writers are deeply resentful of films like Sharknado that exist exclusively for the social media buzz. So even though I’ve seen Troll 2 appear on its share of top 10 B-movie lists, I’ve largely ignored it since I’ve seen a boatload of memes from the film. I’ve gotten all of the highlights, right?

How wrong I have been.

The Film:

Troll 2

The Premise:

While vacationing in a small, rural town with his family, a boy sees visions of his grandfather warning him of the imminent threat of goblins.

The Ramble:

As far as bedtime stories go, Grandpa Seth spins a yarn that ranges from disturbingly dark to…even darker. Cautioning young Joshua Waits about the very real dangers of goblins, he warns that goblins may disguise themselves and will encourage humans to eat foods that will turn them into edible plant people. The moral of the story is that goblins will fuck you up for no reason–a refreshingly post-modern theme for a children’s tale. Making matters worse, Grandpa Seth has been dead for months, properly freaking out Joshua’s mother as her child continues to have conversations with the man.

A close-up on grandpa Seth shows an elderly man with a beard looking intensely into the distance, a child in pajamas reclined on a bed in the background.

Hoping to enjoy time away together in the countryside, the family is swapping houses for a month to stay in the idyllic small town of Nilbog. (And just in case you didn’t catch it, don’t worry–our film will dramatically reveal the shocking surprise that “Nilbog” is goblin spelled backwards.) Added bonus here? The trip should distract troubled Joshua and remove older sister Holly from the influence of “bad boy” Elliott. As far as a I can tell, Elliott’s reputation comes from the fact that he does nothing but hang around with his friend gang all day. This is a point of contention between Holly and Elliott, and apparently a good reason to throw around some casual homophobia. Our film is from 1990, but it’s still pretty jarring.

Though Holly invites Elliott to vacation with her family, she makes it clear that his friends are not welcome to come along. As it turns out, Elliott and his friends have rented an RV and plan to surprise the Waits family by meeting them in Nilbog.

A group of goblinshuddle over their victim. The goblins are short human-like creatures with white hair covering their faces, large noses, and oversized pointy ears.

When the Waits crew arrive at their vacation home, the family who live there eerily leave without saying a word. However, it’s not long before the Waitses feel at home, especially since there is a delicious (albeit oddly green) meal ready for them to enjoy. Grandpa Seth warns Joshua that the family must not eat the meal, so Joshua devises a disgusting plan to intervene, though points for creativity. Joshua’s father pulls the ultimate “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed” power move with a lecture about how he grew up in poverty legitimately going hungry many nights.

Meanwhile, Elliott’s buddy Arnold, the face that launched 1,000 memes, notices a young woman running through the woods in terror. When goblins catch up to the two, Arnold confidently tells them to get lost, presuming they are a group of costumed weirdos. This seems to pay off initially…until a goblin lobs a spear his way. Fleeing the goblins again, the pair winds up in a creepy church that is now the home of iconic druid queen Creedence. Though it seems Creedence will be an unlikely savior, she in fact has a sinister hidden agenda…oh my GODDDDDDDDDDDD.

Arnold, a teen with blond hair and large glasses, screams with a sweat-soaked face. There is a housefly on his forehead.

The next day, the group of guys and the Waits family are in need of provisions. On the way to the town store, the sheriff offers one of Elliott’s friends a GREEN SANDWICH, which he eats without hesitation. It feels like a major sign of privilege that this dude automatically thinks any food proffered by law enforcement will definitely be safe to consume, even if it’s fucking GREEN. At the shop, the only thing available is special fortified Nilbog milk, which is suspiciously free of cost. The extremely helpful and friendly locals relay a message from Arnold that essentially boils down to “Meet me in the creepy house in the woods.” Sure sounds like Arnold!

Creedence, a woman with dark eye makeup and oversized glasses, gestures dramatically over her shoulder as two worried teens look on.

While in town with his father, Joshua stumbles across a goblin church service, which is sort of a Southern Baptist-inspired gathering with the congregation’s ire focused on eating flesh. Unwittingly drawing attention to himself while snooping, Joshua narrowly misses being force-fed Nilbog ice cream.

That evening, as the goblins tire of biding their time, they hold an impromptu gathering at the vacation home under the guise of folksy smalltown generosity. As Joshua learns, it’s always a good thing to have the spirit of your deceased grandfather around to supply you with Molotov cocktails in case a group of goblins pressures you to choose between a quick death and a slow, violent one.

Will the Waits family manage to defeat the goblin army or will they be reminded that you don’t piss on hospitality?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

A purely subjective rating based on my own personal enjoyment of this film. Is this the well-crafted, moving work of art that is Portrait of a Lady on Fire? God no. Is it going to occupy a similar amount of space in my brain? Probably.

Of course, it’s extremely irritating to have homophobia join the party here. And I don’t completely understand the hostility towards vegetarians that seems to be on display throughout the film. It’s also reasonably distracting that a film with trolls in the title is about…goblins. But overall, I did enjoy this one so much more than anticipated. There’s a good reason this is considered a cult classic.

Once I started watching, I couldn’t look away. Things are obviously extremely low budget, and the acting is as stilted as expected. But it’s actually quite funny (more or less intentionally), and some of the effects are surprisingly gross. It doesn’t hurt that the unsettlingly friendly group of strangers becoming increasingly sinister is one of my favorite horror setups.

I haven’t even really given Creedence her due in this review, as she is truly a legend amongst cult classic villains. She is living my dream life, minus the oddly sexy popcorn scene with an actual teenager. But her unhinged maniacal energy along with her preference for plants over people make me absolutely root for her.

Special mentions to Holly’s extremely ’90s Garfield astrology sleepwear, as well as Grandpa Seth’s odd Orson Welles vibe.

TL;DR: if you don’t like Troll 2, you’re wrong.

Would my goblin queen toast this one with a glass of Nilbog milk or conspire to defeat it with a surprisingly violent spirit guide? Find out in her review!