Every now and then, a person is bequeathed with a film of such stature, depth, and importance that it is quite difficult to find the right words to express one's feelings. And every now and then, the complexity of this cinematic masterstroke is so intense that one must be obligated to encapsulate oneself in a fortitudinous psyche just to be able to discuss the work. It is with great pleasure that such a film has come my way, and it is with great honor that I take on the challenge of not merely reviewing it, but discussing just why it might possibly be one of the most important films of all time. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my thoughts and evaluations on Troll 2.
We are introduced to a young boy by the name of Joshua (Michael Stephenson) as his grandfather, Seth (Robert Ormsby), tells him a bedtime legend of the ever-frightening goblins. We soon learn that, in actuality, Seth has been dead for months, and young Joshua has been fighting with a deep psychological trauma, envisioning his once caregiver by his side, much like a guardian angel (more on that later). We are also soon introduced to Joshua's parents, Michael (George Hardy) and Diana (Margo Prey), as well as his older sister Holly (Connie Young). We learn that this hardworking, blue-collar, strong American family is about to take a much-earned vacation to the tried and true heart of America--the farming countryside--to get back to the basics and become one with themselves and with true human nature. Also tagging along is Holly's boyfriend, Elliott (Jason Wright), as well as Elliott's best friends: Arnold (Darren Ewing), Drew (Jason Steadman), and Brent (David McConnell). They make their way to the quaint town of Nilbog to do a house-switch with another family... only they soon discover that not everything is quite as it seems.
This is a movie with many heavy themes and allusions. Of note, there are three primary: Religion and the battle of Good vs. Evil (particularly those of demons and witchcraft); allusions to Greek myth and tragedy (and the implied struggle of homosexuality as it pertains to it); and the nature of duality and role reversal (of which there are many a symbolism).
To start, we have the theme of Religion and the battle of Good vs. Evil. As I stated before, there is a strong idea of demons and witchcraft--the devil's power. First and foremost, let us begin with the most obvious: the characters' names. Our main character is Joshua, clearly named after the Hebrew figure who led the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses. In this case, Joshua must lead and protect his family after the death of his Grandpa Seth. And like people of the exodus from Egypt, they complain when their leaders--in this case Seth and Joshua--don't allow proper foods, with Joshua continually stopping them from eating, forcing them to fast. Not only is Seth a Moses figure, but the name Seth also has biblical ties of its own. He was the son of Adam and Eve, perchance given to the couple to replace Abel after his slaying from Cain. In most religions, Seth is seen as the proper genealogical tie to mankind as it is today. And as Seth in the film is the grandfather figure, it is quite fitting that he is seen as the originator of this family. It's also fitting that the paternal figure of the family is named Michael, as that is also the name of God's primary Archangel, the one who will help lead to a world of goodness at the end of days.
Besides the names, we do, late in the film, learn that Seth is not a figment of young Joshua's imagination, or even of the trauma that he's faced, but an actual angel of sorts. He's been sent down to, essentially, help his family face off against the goblins--or demons--that are tormenting them. It is especially clear near the climax that there is an even longer and more mysterious battle going on between the two factions based on the actions and reactions of Seth and the goblins. It is a film where the family (and family friends) are faced with a crisis in faith, wherein they must--in multiple instances--beg The Lord, their God, to help them. At one point, Diana (the mother) exclaims "Oh God, help us," while Elliott's friend Arnold cries out "Oh my God!" knowing there is but one Being that could help save his doomed soul. Of course, the crisis of faith comes to a head at the climax, where the family must use their power of goodness and love to destroy the evil beings at the very portal to Hell.
Along with the demons, the family must fight a demonic figure--a witch who controls the goblins. And as we're taught through religion, witchcraft comes from the powers of Lucifer himself. Now there was an interesting line that caught my ear. During a town meeting, one character proclaims the name "Harry Potter." As I'm aware, Harry Potter was the name of the main character in the first Troll movie. However, being that this film is famous for having absolutely no connection to its predecessor, I can only conclude that it was a precognitive discussion of the Boy Wizard himself (or, if we're to assume the events of the Potter books are factual and/or in line with the timeline of this film, it works even better. Potter was actually born in 1980, while his parents were murdered in 1981, and his first year of Hogwarts took place in 1991, merely one year after the setting of this film. How fitting a discussion from dark creatures about the soon-to-be re-emergence of The Boy Who Lived? Not to mention the fact he had to face off against what his first year? Yeah, that's right... a troll (I know these are goblins, but the point remains). However, I believe I'm getting off topic now).
Let's move on to the allusions of Greek myth and tragedy. Besides the religious connections, there are many ties to other stories of yore. I'll hardly bother even getting into the mother's name, Diana (the Roman variation of Artemis), being the goddess of women, virginity, and the hunt. Besides that, it's very obvious that young Joshua has an Oedipal nature. He might not have an incestuous yearning for his mother, but there is a connection. He constantly battles against his own father over the right to be with the father of his mother, Seth. And if you know anything about ancient Greek culture, it was commonplace for the wise older man to have a homoerotic relationship with a young boy, typically one he took in as a pupil--similar to the bond between Seth and Joshua. Now, I'm not advocating that there was anything sexual going on between the two relatives, but merely that there was a strong Freudian-type bond between the two. But while we are discussing homosexuality in this film, I would like to bring up the group of friends--Elliott, Arnold, Drew, and Brent. There is a very strong undertone that these young men are sexually active with one another, particularly a scene where two of them wake up in a bed together, with one's arm around the other. And it's quite deep of the film to explore Elliott's struggle with his homosexuality and how it destroys his life and potential romance with Holly (Note: just look at the pain on his face in the picture to the side at being so close to his girlfriend).
Also of note are the tales of The Odyssey and Pygmalion. At the center of this story is a witch and her followers who trap a group of travelers in her home and force them to eat delicious food which transforms them. It takes an outside force (Seth--also taking the role of messenger god Hermes) to warn Joshua and allow him to save his family. This is, quite simply, the tale of Circe. As for Pygmalion, this is actually a role reversal in the form of Arnold. Whereas Ovid's original tale of Pygmalion is about a man who falls in love with a sculpture that turns to life, Arnold is a living person who is turned into a plant, causing the witch to become enamored with him.
While on the subject, let us look at the themes of duality and role reversals in this film. This isn't as deep of a discussion, but merely a few observations. At the forefront is the town itself. Nilbog, as we discover in the film, is merely goblin spelled backwards. There is the switching of families and lifestyles, which is what brings our "heroes" to Nilbog to begin with. (And along with this switch is a sub-theme of Modern Societal Views vs. Old-Time Mentality, such as eating vegetables over meats, having clean air over smog, and the importance of being peasants and farmers and getting your hands dirty. But that's for another article.) There are numerous instances where mirrors come into play, as well. Joshua discovers the Nilbog switch through a mirror. Grandpa Seth has conversations through mirrors. The witch and other goblins travel through mirrors near the end of the film. All of this clearly symbolizes the importance of role reversals and duality--the duality in oneself and in others, the good and evil both in yourself and others. It's a yin and yang theory.
In essence, Troll 2 is a very deep and meaningful film. A lot of intellect and thought went into not only its writing, but also its production. It has entered the pantheon of "must see" cinema for a reason, and it's safe to say that that reason has been greatly justified. While it might not always be totally solid in its ideas and presentation, and could be slightly stronger in its execution, Troll 2 is utterly enjoyable and emphatically detailed, though--as with its theme of duality--equally nuanced. If you have not seen it, I must recommend it. It is an experience you will not soon forget.
(P.S. This "review" is dedicated to those who have complained that I need to take a more critical view of these films, particularly due to the fact most are beyond pure review--and I found such is definitely the case with this one. So here you are.)