Troll (1986)

The one thing that can be said about Troll is that it was ambitious.  John Carl Buechler was a special effects artist who also spent some time writing, directing and acting in the same sort of low budget films he did creatures for.  Prior to Troll he had directed The Dungeonmaster, and had done the creature effects for the Gremlins knockoff Ghoulies.  Not content to just do another in a long line of movies about little creatures run amok he decided to write and direct a major fantasy movie starring Noah Hathaway of The Never Ending Story as well as having June Lockhart and Sonny Bono in small roles.  

The problem is, ambition is often limited by budget, and Troll was made for Empire Pictures, Charles Band's predecessor to Full Moon Productions.  As good as Buechler was at creating animatronic monsters on a budget he was limited to doing the best that he could.  Despite its limitations Troll still manages to be an entertaining film.

Harry Potter Sr. (Michael Moriarty), his wife Anne (Shelley Hack) and kids Harry Jr. (Hathaway) and Wendy Anne (Jenny Beck) move into a new apartment in a building in San Francisco.  While exploring Wendy Anne is captured by a troll named Torok (Phil Fondacaro) who then assumes her shape and moves in with her family.  They are concerned about their daughter's sudden change in behavior, while Harry Jr. begins to suspect sometime more sinister may be going on.  

While Torok begins breaking down the barrier between our world and that of the faeries Harry meets another resident, a cantankerous artist named Eunice St. Clair (Lockhart).  She knows more about what is going on, although she has realized too late that Torok has started breaking back into our realm.  In order to keep him and the world of the fey from taking over, and to rescue Wendy Anne, Harry must travel into Torok's world and destroy the troll's champion.

I can understand why someone may not get this movie.  I think I enjoy it more because it is part of my childhood, often seeing Troll and Ghoulies pop up on cable.  I often get the two confused because many of the creatures look similar; in fact, one from Ghoulies does pop up in this movie.  Troll is the better film of the two.  Part of it is Buechler's story, which feels epic even if the budget keeps it within an apartment building.  The other is the performances, including Michael Moriarty as a somewhat unhinged father and Jennifer Beck going wild and biting people over hamburgers.  Lockhart and her daughter Anne, who plays a younger version of Eunice, are quite good in a role that could have been phoned in. 

Hathaway is decent, but it is Phil Fondacaro who is outstanding.  Not only as Torok, for spending time in the animatronic troll suit, but as Malcolm Mallory, an English professor that Torok, in the form of Wendy Anne, befriends.  His quiet melancholy and acceptance of his fate and the life he has led is quite heartbreaking, and Fondacaro sells it well. 

It is too bad that Buechler never got to do a big-budget remake of this before he passed away.  That was something that he always wanted to do, and something that Troll deserves if anyone ever decides to revisit it.  The musical number in it was supposed to be a huge production, not unlike the musical portions of Labyrinth, and it would have been interesting to see the movie as he intended.  Still, he was skilled enough to provide audiences with an entertaining bit of '80s nostalgia, even if not everyone gets what he was doing.

Troll (1986)
Time: 82 minutes
Starring: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, June Lockhart, Jennifer Beck, Phil Fondacaro
Director: John Carl Buechler



  1. I watched it years ago. It is pretty odd, though almost by default better than Troll 2 which had nothing to do with this--or trolls in general. Kind of funny there are two Harry Potters involved. Also a small part for Julia Louis-Dreyfuss a couple years before Seinfeld.

    I had not actually known who Shelly Hack was until now. I just remember her name from a stupid joke in The Last Slumber Party. "Who'd you think it was, Shelly Hack?!"


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