When you think of watching a documentary, one doesn't immediately think of an infectiously fun, laugh riot kind of a time. I think most of us envision emotionally exhausting, somber films that tackle serious social issues. Best Worst Movie is not that kind of a documentary; not unless you consider the unpredictable resurgence of Troll 2 as a cult film a serious social issue -- no one considers Troll 2's newfound popularity a social issue, but, as Michael Stephenson's documentary has taught all who have seen it, there certainly is a growing legion of people who take it quite seriously.

I've never seen anything quite like Best Worst Movie, mainly because there's nothing quite like Troll 2. I love documentaries about horror films, but most of the time they're made by the fans and function as a sort of book report on the history of a film's fandom. BWM, on the other hand, is made by the very people who were involved with the original film (Stephenson was the child star of Troll 2) and is tackling a subject matter whose history has long swathes of nothing to report on. The result is an incredibly candid look at what it's like to have been involved with a something that people have spent over a decade trashing.

George Hardy, who played the endlessly quotable father in Troll 2, is essentially the star of the film. Stephenson picks up with Hardy's current life as a successful dentist in a small town in Alabama. Very few people know that in 1990 Hardy was a denizen of Nilbog, but a string of critical revival screenings has suddenly found Hardy face-to-face with movie star fandom for the first time in his life. Things start small, a Q&A here, an appearance there, but as the film's popularity grows so to does the spotlight.
What's so brilliant about Best Worst Movie is the cycle of that spotlight's growth and the effect it has on not only Hardy, but all the original film's players who come out of the woodwork to support the thing they've been ignoring for years. Most of them have clearly moved on and treat it all as a neat little turn of events, but once Stephenson starts to capture the moments that signal things are starting to cycle back down, the film becomes another wonder entirely. It's heartbreaking to watch sold out screenings with standing ovations give way to barren conference halls at horror conventions; to see the factory of charisma that is George Hardy shutter his doors.

Best Worst Movie isn't just a documentary about a movie everyone loves to hate, it's a documentary about passion, about fear, about being a never was. It is a consummate reminder that movies, no matter how bad or good they end up being, don't just crawl out from under rocks. They're still made by people who gave it their all and, much to the surprise of those who openly scorn their film on the internet, those people continue to live their lives. They can still hop on to IMDb and read people who eagerly declare them worthless. If Best Worst Movie does nothing else - and I can't image what kind of sourpuss walks away from this movie without the widest of smiles on their face - it will at least burn that much into your brain.

[Best Worst Movie is currently making its way around the country. Check the official website to see when it is coming to a theater near you.]
categories Reviews, Horror