Tag Archives: John Carl Buechler

CAPSULE: TROLL (1986) & TROLL 2 (1990)

Troll (1986)

DIRECTED BY:  John Carl Buechler

FEATURING:  Noah Hathaway, June Lockhart, Micheal Moriarity, Sonny Bono, Phil Fondacaro, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

PLOT:  Trolls invade the human realm and turn people into food (and baby trolls).

Still from Troll (1986)

Troll 2 (1990)

DIRECTED BY:  Claudio Fragasso

FEATURING:  Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Robert Ormsby, Deborah Reed

PLOT: A family vacations in a town full of humans disguised as “trolls.”

Still from Troll 2 (1990)

WHY NEITHER MOVIE SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: The roots of these strange fantasy worlds don’t dig deep enough to be seriously affecting. The corniness is shallow, and the oddness feels contrived, lazy even.

COMMENTS: Picture a grandfather named Seth.  He confers with others, predominantly family members, emphasizing the existence of goblins. He says they are evil, impudent creatures that revel in torment, then proclaims that goblin blood is green, the color of sap. Somewhere in this parallel universe organic tentacles erupt from the ground and unsightly trolls sprout from organic pods. Multi-hued backdrops dribble with green, mossy earth while peculiar teenage characters experience transcendentally vacant confrontations. In this world, at least one pre-pubescent teen chokes on popcorn during a hot fantasy while trolls hide in his closet. All of these happenings are punctuated by strange flashes of slimy gore in the world of Troll and its sequel, Troll 2.

Eons of insomnia can be obtained attempting to decipher the enigmatic qualitative properties of Troll and Troll 2. Most of what’s on screen in both films seems like a vague attempt to conjure horror and suspense, but it’s all blatantly artificial. Chains of inconsequential science fiction and fantasy ideas are glued together with sticky green goblin slime. It’s assumed that some ironic entertainment value can be siphoned from the bizarre haphazardness, but the darker elements (e.g. the exploding heads in Troll, people being turned into plants and then masticated in Troll 2) indicate a tone of cynicism surrounding the offbeat exchanges. Thus, despite their puppet and slime fetishes, these movies are not really suitable for kids to enjoy. On the contrary, it would be quite unfortunate for an unsuspecting child to see either one of the Troll movies. With little understanding of life, witnessing the queer squabbles, blundering cheeseball romances, and mini-monsters coveting veggie-morphed organs could cause permanent psychological impairment. (It would also be not be constructive for a youngster to watch Troll 2 and get the idea that it’s OK to urinate on the family dinner table).

Examining Troll and Troll 2 as horror appropriation pieces with villains that contort traditional fantasy creatures, the streamlined awkwardness is overwhelmingly grotesque. Loopy symphonies are performed by homicidal puppets with a skew-whiff gawkiness. Unlike other weirdo B-movie monster flicks of the late Eighties, like Bad Taste or Society, the narrative enjoyment never approaches transcendence, nor does it dally with the chaotic fun of cornball monster movies of its time (such as Critters). Rather, the fun gets lost in boredom and confusion while the camera moves from one set piece to the next, while side characters explode with green slime that was most likely borrowed from Nickelodeon Studios before they went prime time. It’s not difficult to imagine both films as extended, graphic episodes of the 90s children’s TV series “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” While the woozy plots focus on property conflicts between parallel dimensions, the camera gives a smidgen of solace in its visual homogeneity with its whorls of evanescent greens and browns. The most enduring aspects of the Troll universe come from its vivid color palette and imaginative set pieces.

The goblins (not trolls) of Troll 2 exist within the same logic-deprived chaos as the first film. They kill for pleasure perhaps, but more for the warm green globs of organic flesh that fill their bellies. Issuing the same gruff, nasally bark while performing all tasks, the “trolls” have the power to turn people into plants and the strength to bend steel barrel shotguns, the shells of which they are immune to. The accord between the troll and human world is like a massive, perverted phase shift. Somehow, none of this brain candy prevents the viewing of Troll and Troll 2 from being a generally dull experience.

The repetitive musical score coupled with the amateur acting will, at its best and most cheesy moments, bring to mind the lack of awareness of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, but the strength of Troll  and its sequel as amusing cult films lie more in the lurid sci-fi and fantasy aspects of their productions. In Troll‘s first troll attack, a partier gets zapped into a lush array of green foliage, with a splatter effect that uses green slime in place of blood. Scenes like this are interspersed with arbitrary, half-baked filler dialogue, which can be mind-numbingly dull. In the first film, relief is found with the introduction of an anachronistically-dressed diva with a talking head for a desk lamp. Her role leads to surreal insanity. Another amusing scene in Troll involves a character named Harry Potter Sr. (no kidding) rocking out in his living room, with dance moves that may have inspired those in Dogtooth.

The total freedom of expression on display is liberating.  At a glance, both Troll and Troll 2 can resemble grisly Muppets’ films or B-movie cousins of Labyrinth, but the scene in Troll where baby goblins emerge from animatronic green monsters best describes what the vibe is like throughout both films. Slimy, graphic, and morosely odd, Troll and Troll 2 possess enough surface qualities to be labeled as terribly bizarre, but there’s not enough magic, passion, or unusual ideas behind the bad acting and green slime to rise above the multitude of B-movies that aspire to be on The List.


“…a predictable, dim-witted premise executed for the most part with surprising style.“–Variety on Troll (contemporaneous)

the kind of cinematic experience that must be experienced firsthand. No description of it can quite contain its misguided ludicrousness or the way its infinite and varied sins against the traits of good cinema combine to produce one of the most uproarious unintentional comedies ever made.”–James Kendrick, Q Network (DVD)


AKA Ragewar

DIRECTED BY: Charles Band, Rosemarie Turko, John Carl Buechler, David Allen, Jeffrey Byron, Peter Manoogian, Ted Nicolaou

FEATURING: Jeffrey Byron, , Leslie Wing

PLOT: A demon sucks a computer expert into a dream world where he puts him through a series of tests, each directed in a different genre style.

Still from The Dungeonmaster (1984)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With its bespectacled hero with a laser-blasting artificial intelligence best buddy who defeats Satan in hand-to-hand combat to save his super-hot aerobicized girlfriend from demonic bondage, The Dungeonmaster may be the apotheosis of 1980s nerd camp. Objectively speaking, however, it’s no more than a guilty pleasure.

COMMENTS: The Dungeonmaster starts out in medias R.E.M., with a dream in which the hero chases a red-robed woman through a misty corridor; he catches her, she drops her dress for a full frontal shot, they start to make love, and then a bunch of aliens break in and abduct her kicking nude body. This has absolutely nothing to do with anything that follows, but it does earn the movie that super-cool R-rating all the awesomest B-flicks get (besides this pre-credits sequence, The Dungeonmaster is strictly a PG affair).

Actually, in a funny Zen koan sort of way, the fact that this preliminary fantasy sequence has nothing to do with anything that follows has everything to do with everything that follows, because the rest of the movie is made up of strung-together fantasy sequences with no real logical connection between them. Paul is a computer scientist with an early prototype version of Google glasses that allows him to hack the traffic light cycles as he’s jogging and take money out of his ATM without entering his PIN number. Gwen, his aerobics-instructor girlfriend, is jealous of Paul’s relationship with a female artificial intelligence named CAL (short for her serial number, X-CALBR8), but when the Devil abducts her and chains her to a concrete boulder on a studio back lot, she learns to appreciate what she’s got.

You see, Old Scratch is impressed by Paul’s skill with computers, which he regards as some form of arcane wizardry, and so has devised seven tests (each directed by a different one of Charles Band’s pals) for Paul to conquer in order to win Gwen back. One representative quest involves Paul finding Einstein’s ice grenade to throw at the figures in a frozen wax museum. Other challenges include facing zombies and their puppet king in the Land of the Dead, defeating a stop-motion animated jungle statue, and solving a neo-noir mystery. In the most terrifying trial of all, Paul finds himself in a W.A.S.P. video directed by Charles Band, and must fight his way past a bunch of leather clad groupies with big hair to stop an Alice Cooper wannabe from sacrificing his fair maiden on a pointy stage prop.

Paul defeats almost every challenge simply by zapping the boss baddie with CAL, whom Satan has helpfully transformed into a wristband laser. He also utters the immortal line, beloved of “Mythbusters” and teenage solipsists alike, “I reject your reality and substitute my own!” The art direction, while admittedly cheap, is actually pretty good throughout, colorful in that bright 1980s way with plenty of sub-Industrial Light and Magic glowing laser beams and electrical arcs turning up everywhere. The Dungeonmaster zips from one underdeveloped adolescent fantasy to the next, with zero logic and seven layers of cheesy spectacle. It’s kind of great! If I had my way, I would totally reject this reality and substitute The Dungeonmaster‘s.

Remembered fondly by few, The Dungeonmaster was a very late arrival in the DVD format, only showing up in 2013 on Scream Factory’s “All Night Horror Marathon Vol. 2” set alongside inferior but equally unloved Charles Band productions Cellar Dweller (1988), Catacombs (1993), and Contamination .7 (1993).


“If this really was a D&D adventure I’d venture that the Dungeon Master desperately needs new medication. Or much less medication. I haven’t seen anything this weird and stupid since I read the Castle Greyhawk module.”–Noah Antwiler, The Spoony Experiment