See It: Best Worst Movie (2010)
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never seen Troll 2, a 1992 low-budget horror movie that’s been labeled “the worst film of all time,” and has garnered a fan base with a Rocky Horror-esque sense of loyalty. It’s the story of a family who enters the town of Nilbog for some reason, where goblins disguised as people try to turn them into plants. Or at least that’s what I’m able to cobble together after watching Best Worst Movie, a documentary about Troll 2‘s journey to the top of the “so bad it’s good” heap. By focusing primarily on George Hardy, the excessively nice Alabama dentist who happened to star in Troll 2, director Michael Paul Stephenson (another T2 cast member) doesn’t just tell the ultimate underdog story in horror movie history – it depicts a man who changes from a humble guy who’s in on the joke to a spotlight-seeker who thinks he can act. Part hilarious, part pitiful, and completely sensitive to the emotional nature of fandom, Best Worst Movie is a must for anyone who has appreciated the odd, addictive beauty of a real camp classic.
Flee It: Chariots of Fire (1981)
Here’s another movie obsessed with the underdog – Hugh Hudson’s gauzy, Academy Award-winning ode to the British runners of the 1924 Olympics. But unlike the charmingly delusional heroes of Best Worst Movie, the two main characters of this meticulous period piece are about as convincing as Troll 2‘s goblin costumes. And it’s not like their true stories didn’t have meat on the bones. Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) was a religious fanatic who refused to run his Olympic race because it fell on the Sabbath. Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) used the anti-Semitism of his Cambridge elders and peers as his prime motivation to win gold. But neither situation gets dramatic traction here, because Chariots of Fire is too busy treating sports movie clichés like high art. Liddell’s the wily veteran who has to be talked into running; Abrahams goes through a training montage with his instructor (played by Ian Holm, a real bright spot); the crusty old deans doubt the youngsters every step of the way. In the few scenes where Chariots of Fire does try to shed light on the religious tensions that should’ve been its primary focus, it tosses them off with some less-than-inspired dialogue. When Liddell explains to his devout sister why he must compete, he sounds like it’s really a non-issue – “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast.”