Halloween Endurance Test: Troll (1986)

My grandfather had hundreds of bootlegged movies. Tons and tons of VHS cassette tapes, with the movies jammed together without rhyme or reason. That is where I first encountered John Buechler’s 1986 “treat” Troll.

The Daily News apparently felt that this was “a special-effects pig-out.” Seems more like a mid-eighties cash-grab for some leftover Labyrinth love. Starring both Sonny Bono and Julia Louis-Dreyfus!

(Strange how both Julia and “America’s sweetheart” Jennifer (Leprechaun) Aniston starred in regrettable imp horror films early in their careers, only to later find fame in sit-coms.)

Visually the film takes its cues from the aforementioned Labyrinth and/or Legend. Dealing, as it does, with troll who’s trying to reunite with his onetime paramour. (A paramour who looks a lot like television’s Miss Bliss ten years later.) He does this by turning the various apartment complex’s rooms into sylvan retreats and their inhabitants into elfin folk. First “victim” is a family’s little daughter, who becomes the troll’s human disguise.

Only in the eighties could this plot float. Let me get this straight, there’s a creature who’s turning a building that’s three blocks from a slum into a wooded glade full of fantastic, otherworldly creatures and that’s a bad thing? I can hear the inhabitants complaining now, “We love the smell of urine in the halls! How dare you!” All to impress a girl he once loved who’s now on the edge of being geriatric. So he loves nature and being green, and also old people. He must be stopped!

One apartment away from turning the complex into the perfect mid-city campground, the troll’s “evil” plan meets its end. The brother of the little girl finds the Miss Bliss character and plans on ways to bring his sister back. A plan that involves stabbing some supertroll in the chest with a magic spear which’ll undo/reverse all the “evil” magics.

Julia Louise-Dreyfus transforms back from a fairy sprite into a harried, sexually-harassed secretary. Sonny Bono returns to being an angry, woman-hating drunk. The family returns to an apartment which’ll surely infect them with either lead-poisoning or asbestos; causing all of them an early grave. Frankly the only character who comes out ahead is the Miss Bliss character. Who, relying on the magics of her ancient past, manages to spend all day painting with a talking mushroom by her side.


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