John Carl Buechler was responsible for the creature and goo effects on almost every Band production. In the early 1980s, Buechler formed MMI, a makeup effects company that is variously said to stand for Mechanical and Makeup Imageries or Magical Media Industries. Buechler began working for the Bands with The Dungeonmaster/Ragewar: The Challenges of Excalibrate (1984). The Dungeonmaster was an anthology where the Bands commissioned eight different directors to each make a segment of the film, among which they offered Buechler the opportunity to make his directorial debut on one of the segments. Buechler subsequently went on to direct Cellar Dweller (1988) and Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College (1991) for the Bands, as well as various other B films including Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), Watchers Reborn (1998), A Light in the Forest (2002), Deep Freeze (2003), Curse of the Forty-Niner (2003), The Eden Formula (2006) and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2006). The script for Troll was written by Ed Naha, who also wrote Empires Dolls (1987) and other films like C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), Omega Doom (1996) and produced/created the abysmal The Adventures of Sinbad (1996-8) tv series. In between writing a great many novelizations, Ed Naha was also a freelance writer on Starlog magazine and the founding editor of Fangoria.
Troll is an entertaining ripoff of Joe Dantes Gremlins (1984), a film about mischievous creatures amok that was one of the big box-office hits of 1984. Indeed, the Bands had earlier ripped Gremlins off as Ghoulies (1985), a cheap copycat mischievous creatures film, which became one of their greatest successes and produced a number of sequels.
Largely, Troll has been construed as being focused around cheap MMI creature effects the fantasy scenario tying everything together is thinly sketched. While the Ghoulies films are cheap and dreary, Troll is one Empire film that has a peculiar appeal. It is frequently a film that takes itself so silly as to be enjoyable. There is certainly much frenetic silliness to Troll, while Buechlers attempts to direct comedy are flat, but the bizarre creature effects and eccentric casting make it an undeniably watchable film. There are times it verges on the completely surreal. There is an amazing sequence where the troll causes Sonny Bono to undergo a cheap airbladder transformation into a seed pod that then hatches and causes stop-motion animated foliage to crawl all around and cover his apartment, transforming it into a forest filled with trolls. There are various other such transformations throughout. In another scene, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is transformed into a nymph and goes dancing through her forest/apartment with her modesty covered only by artfully placed leaves. Elsewhere, June Lockhart has a pet mushroom with a face that nods in agreement with everything she says, which she hides by covering it with a lampshade when visitors come. Michael Moriarty manages to steal a good portion of the film with his entertainingly silly performance and a dancing scene that has to be seen to be believed.
John Carl Buechler and the Bands manage to rope in a truly amazing cast. This include Michael Moriarty, who at the time was appearing in various B movies, most notably for Larry Cohen, and a few years before becoming a regular on Law and Order (1990-2010); former Charlies Angel Shelley Hack as the mother; June Lockhart, once the mom on tvs Lost in Space (1965-8) as the witch (when Lockhart transforms into her younger self, she is played by her own daughter, actress Anne Lockhart); a horrendously mugging Sonny Bono, formerly of Sonny and Cher fame, as a swinger neighbour; and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a number of years before finding fame on tvs cult Seinfeld (1990-8) in her first ever acting role as an actress neighbour. Solid professional performances are obtained from most of the cast, including Shelley Hack, Michael Moriarty and, best of all, from diminutive Phil Fondacaro who succeeds in investing the character of a dwarf English professor with some sympathy and sincerity.
There are all the usual cheap animation effects and tinny music score associated with Empires films. It is amusing in retrospect to note that the young hero Noah Hathaway and father Michael Moriarty both have the name of Harry Potter, although it is not known if J.K. Rowling ever saw Troll before she created her eponymous hero. The background of the apartment is also covered with posters for other Empire/Band films such as The Dungeonmaster and Parasite (1982).
The legendarily bad Troll 2 (1990) purports to be a sequel, although this is Italian-made and does not come from the Bands or any of the production personnel or cast of this film. This has become a cult film because of its notorious awfulness.
(Review copy provided courtesy of Ryan Kenner from Movies in the Attic).