Horror In Our Time: Troll (1986)

When a young girl who’s not what she appears to be attempts to take over the world by unleashing a forest of faeries in an apartment building, it’s up to her older brother, his love of Science Fiction movies, and an old lady who secrets looks like the mother from Seventh Heaven to stop her.

Ah, Troll. Troll is an odd movie that has achieved notoriety- particularly among online reviewers- not for its own value or lack thereof, but for the cult status of its sequel, Troll 2, which has nothing to do with it (and not in the way Caravan of Courage has nothing to do with Star Wars, either). Troll does have a similarity to another pop culture phenomenon. After all, this is the movie that introduced the world to a man named Harry Potter- and his son, Harry Potter.

But I need to say something about this film that hasn’t already been said a million times on the internet. For example, the fact that Troll is probably the only movie I’ve ever seen a midget little person feature in a non-comedic role. Malcolm Mallory, who is a… Professor of English, enters into the film simply as an adult concerned for a child’s safety, albeit with a sense of humor- or at least acceptance- when asked “are you an elf?”. Apparently, Troll is set too early for the cliché that actors of Phil Fondacaro’s… caliber would be expected to portray later on. Of course, Fondacaro also plays the titular troll, which is rather to be expected.

Malcolm recites a long poem to the Potter family, unaware that this poem acts as a call to arms to trolls and other sorts of faeries that have been marshaled to invade the apartment building. Having served his purpose, Malcolm disappears from the plot, appearing from time to time as an active part of the setting, which differs from set dressing in that he still speaks and interacts with the main characters, in much the way of the NPC who tells you about her son who left the home while you ransack her house for valuables.

While Malcolm is a minor character- at least, minor in that he’s fairly equal to most of the supporting cast, which is rather numerous and well developed for two dimensions- he’s one of the most memorable characters of the movie. He sets a precedent and a social statement, one that is a touch of humanity in a film about the fantastic. He’s aware of his condition, but in a way that neither acts as a patronizing inspiration, nor a comedy. This makes it all the more sad and fitting when the troll transforms him into an elf, certain this is the right thing to do for this tortured soul.

In a way, Eunice Saint Clair- played by a mother and daughter for the sake of what is supposed to look like a makeup change- is a counterpart to Malcolm. Their stories don’t coincide at all, but each of them has a degree of backstory and a relevance to the leads. While Malcolm’s story is almost exclusively tied to the, uh, female lead, Eunice’s story is mostly tied to Harry Junior. She’s the mentor figure of Troll, having witnessed and battled against the origin of the current troll crisis, which is led by her former lover. She initially appears to be a one dimensional cranky old lady, but warms to Harry when he shows he needs a friend. Still, it’s not until Malcolm’s poem, when a living lamp that used to be her teacher (don’t ask) starts singing along with other faerie creatures, that Eunice really shows her role as a character. From this moment on, she moves to fight against the troll and his army, mostly by arming Harry Junior with knowledge about the enemy.

After all this, it should be no surprise that plot convenience manages to remove Eunice from the climax before she can do any good.

Troll is a perfectly enjoyable cheesy movie, with a fun cast (albeit filled with apartment building clichés). The titular antagonist is named Turok, who became a troll after a failed career as a dinosaur hunter. Now he’s out once again to take over the world (of course), starting by inserting himself into the body of a young girl (wait…). As he transforms every tenant in the apartment complex, more and more of the faerie world creeps into the building. How this is supposed to lead to him taking over the world, I’m not sure, but this is apparently a movie for fourteen year old boys with annoying younger sisters, anyway.

You know, I would have appreciated this movie when I was fourteen. Now, I just wish that the novel reviewer, Harry Senior, could be relevant. Not like the similar character written by M. Night Shyamalan.

The production values on this movie are not the best, but the film’s not falling apart at the seams, either. The costumes are cheap, but the puppets are fairly well done. The acting ranges from the terrible child actor that plays the female lead, the slightly better Potter family, to the excellent Malcolm and Eunice as portrayed by the Lockharts. All in all, Troll is just not good or bad enough of a movie to stand out against the hordes of similar movies released around this time period. But that doesn’t make it too bad to be worth a view, if for nothing other than the pop culture references. If you knew what Troll 2 was before clicking this review and still read it, odds are, Troll is a movie you’ll enjoy.

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