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The Best Worst Movie 

Sometimes a movie hurts so bad, it feels good. Like Troll 2, voted one of the worst films ever made.

In 1989, a group of Italian filmmakers set up in a small Utah town to film their version of a typical American horror film. They hired a group of mostly Mormon locals with virtually no prior acting experience. None of the actors spoke Italian, the director and crew almost no English. The director, Claudio Fragasso, insisted his script (written in broken English) be recited verbatim. The cast, who were mildly terrified of him, obliged.

The final product, Troll 2, is a work that defies categorization even by lowbrow standards. There aren't even any trolls in the film---just awkwardly costumed goblins, ludicrous dialogue, weird, terrible acting and a story that must be seen to be believed.

In one scene, the film's main character Joshua saves his family's lives by urinating on their dinner; later there's a sex scene involving copious amounts of popcorn. Troll 2 isn't just a B-movie---it's universally considered one of the worst movies ever made.

"At the time, I was having a blast," says Michael Stephenson, calling from Los Angeles. He played the main role of Joshua when he was 10. "I was like, 'Yeah, I get to ride a skateboard and throw a fake Molotov cocktail!' Then I watched the movie on Christmas morning, like, a year later, when my parents tracked down the VHS and gave it to me as a Christmas present. So we put it on and everyone was quiet for awhile. Then my dad put his hand up to his forehead and said 'Oh, Michael, this is a baaaad movie.'"

Like a lot of shitty late-'80s movies, Troll 2 has enjoyed a resurrection on DVD. But the film's popularity has expanded beyond that recently, with super-fans hosting Troll 2 parties and midnight screenings selling out at underground festivals and repertory theatres from Toronto to New Zealand. Like the Rocky Horror Picture Show's audiences of the '70s, Troll 2 fans are rabid---and devoted.

"I've watched it 30 or 40 times," says filmmaker and Picnicface member Andrew Bush, who is screening Troll 2 at the Bus Stop Theatre on Friday night, along with a trailer for his Xanadu-inspired roller-schlock film Roller Town. "I have to keep showing it to people. The lines are amazing. The director has no idea how to shoot, but he got it done. It's so earnest in that regard---everyone is so genuinely excited about what they're doing. It's a beautiful film."

The movie lodged in Jason Eisener's heart when he watched it at a friend's birthday. "We were just blown away," says the Treevenge director. "The acting is horrible. The direction is horrible. You are actually embarrassed for the actors. It's a miracle for a film to be so bad and so funny at the same time."

Stephenson realized Troll 2 was becoming a borderline cult phenomenon when fans from all over the world flooded his MySpace page a couple of years ago with photos and comments about their Troll 2 parties and screenings. "I spent a long time really trying to distance myself from that film," he says. "I didn't want to die being known as that kid who pisses all over his family's dinner. But then I started to see how genuine all these fans were, and how much fun they were having with a bad movie."

The idea piqued Stephenson enough that he spent the next three years working on a documentary about the film and its impact called Best Worst Movie. In the process, he says he's come to terms with "being the star of the worst movie ever made."

"It's very genuine and sincere," he says. "I think there's a lot of films that lack that authenticity. People are having genuine fun with this, and I thought, 'Wow, that's really special.' I've had other acting jobs since then, but I've done nothing as remarkable as Troll 2."

Roller Town trailer and Troll 2 with Picnicface, Friday, March 20 at Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen, 8pm, pay what you can. Best Worst Movie is currently showing at South by Southwest.

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