Sunday, 9 October 2011

Michael Stephenson's 'Best Worst Movie', 2009

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Fig. 1 Best Worst Movie poster.
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Best Worst Movie ever is a documentary about the 1990 film called Troll 2. It features the cast as they are now, as well as the fans behind the film's cult status.

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Fig. 2  Actors from Troll 2 with a couple of fans.




Troll 2 is recognised as, possibly, the worst film ever made. It is the only movie to have received 0% out of 100 on the film reviewing website, Rotten Tomatoes, it has the shoddiest acting and to top it off there are no actual trolls in the film itself.  Despite this though, David Ray Carter explains that "Due in large to pre-existing fan networks...Troll 2 quickly developed a large cult following, even spawning a documentary on the phenomenon with the hyperbolic and debatable title Best Worst Movie." (Carter, 2011:107) It is in this documentary, Best Worst Movie, that reveals exactly how large Troll 2's cult following is.  In some scenes we see that a small cinema, that has advertised a late night showing of Troll 2, is absolutely packed with fans. There are so many that they are lining up along the street to see it, and in some cases they are even being turned away because the film has sold out.  One of the many reasons this film is so successful is through the power of word of mouth. Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton divulged that "Word of mouth endorsements give the feeling they are to be trusted because of the position of equality between receiver and communicator." (Mathijs, Sexton, 2011:56) it is this trust that allows for so many people to watch it.  When you hear from a friend or someone you know that this film is worth watching, especially if it is a lot of fun, you're much more likely to go and see it. Then, when you do enjoy it, or even if you don't, you're likely to tell someone else you know about it and thus spread it even further.
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Fig. 3 International fandom.
Troll 2 has received cult status through the word of mouth of its adoring fans, but cult itself is an important part of cinema as a whole.  To try and define 'cult' as a term for a type of film is difficult as it can really apply to a broad range of different genres and styles; Paul Simpson believes that "In cinematic terms, the word "cult" is often applied to films starring fifty-foot women on a mission of personal revenge, killer tomatoes or an entire Western town populated by midgets." (Simpson, 2010:vii) Generally, these are the quite obscure films, usually B-movies, that have very strange but quite charming ideas behind them. However, Troll 2 doesn't entirely fit into this category, Simpson continued that "Sometimes this [cult] has been extended to include movies that are either "so bad they're good"...or are the objects of quasi-religious worship" (Simpson, 2010:vii)  This description is much more appropriate for films like Troll 2, the B-movie with so little behind it that it is barely believable as a film.  When films are this bad though, what is it that makes them so watch-able and enjoyable?  Well, Simpson went on to express that cult "also implies knowledge hidden from the masses. So a cult movie may be the preserve of a select few or have depths missed by the casual viewer." (Simpson, 2010:vii)  This inclusion of the film being 'hidden from the masses' and 'preserve of a select few' can be interpreted as their popularity being, in part at least, to the camaraderie of the group of people who share the same views.  Michael Z. Newman explained that "cult viewing demands the cultivation of in-group identity. It cannot exist without knowledge and competence shared among members." (Newman, 2011:213)  This shows that part of the 'cult' label is the inclusion of a group identity. The enjoyment of these cult films is partly due to the atmosphere that is created by your fellow audience members as they laugh with you as you share these cult films.  Newman then went on to interpret the term 'cult' in a succinct way, he expressed that "cult films may be impossible to capture using the tools of rigorous definition. If it has an essence, it is to be found in qualities of reception rather than in forms of textuality." (Newman, 2011:212)  The cult films, such as Troll 2,  are more about 'reception' than they are about the 'textuality' of the medium.  The quality of these films can be questionable and even none existent at times, but if they are received well by the audience, if they are thoroughly enjoyed no matter what the quality of the acting or effects then they can receive the label of 'cult' and expect to be much more popular than they ought to be.

Best Worst Movie is a great insight into the world of cult movie fans and the extent to which a film, that by rights should never have seen the light of day, can become a huge and much loved piece of cinema.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Best Worst Movie (2009) Best Worst Movie Poster. At: http://impawards.com/2010/best_worst_movie.html (Accessed on: 09/10/11)

Figure 2. Best Worst Movie (2009) Actors from Troll 2 with a couple of fans. At: http://i2.listal.com/image/2503962/600full-best-worst-movie-screenshot.jpg (Accessed on: 09/10/11)

Figure 3. Best Worst Movie (2009) International fandom. At: http://www.dvdactive.com/images/reviews/screenshot/2010/12/vlcsnap12820512.jpg (Accessed on: 09/10/11)

Bibliography

Carter, David Ray (2011) In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.

Mathijs, Ernest, Sexton, Jamie (2011) Cult Cinema. Wiley-Blackwell

Newman, Michael Z. (2011) Indie: An American Film Culture. USA:Columbia University Press.

Simspon, Paul (2010) The Rough Guide to Cult Movies. London: Rough Guides.

2 comments:

  1. A great breakdown of 'Cultism' in reference to Troll 2 there Molly. Good stuff!

    ReplyDelete