Filmmaker Michael Paul Stephenson's new documentary 'Best Worst Movie' explores the surprising popularity of his laughable horror flick ''Troll 2''

By Clark Collis
Updated March 13, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Michael Paul Stephenson’s documentary Best Worst Movie relates the saga of Troll 2, a hilariously awful 1990 horror film that starred a boy named… Michael Paul Stephenson. ”I felt I was making the next Gremlins,” says Stephenson, now 31, whose doc premieres March 14 at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin. ”Nobody said, ‘Hey, we’re going to make a bad movie!”’ Despite its title, Troll 2 featured no trolls. Nor, confusingly, was it a sequel to 1986’s Troll, with Sonny Bono. Rather, it concerned goblins in the town of Nilbog (yes, that’s goblin spelled backward) who turn humans into vegetables, which they then eat. (The goblins are vegetarians.) Troll 2 was filmed in Utah with an Italian crew, and then went straight to video. Stephenson’s family watched it on Christmas Day. ”My dad said, ‘Oh, Michael, this is a really bad movie,”’ he recalls. ”I was devastated.”

By 2005, Stephenson had retired from acting to set up an ad agency in Utah. He assumed everyone had, mercifully, forgotten Troll 2. But the movie was developing a cult following (”I first saw it three years ago, and I couldn’t believe how f—ing terrible it was,” says comedian and cult-film fan Patton Oswalt). ”I started getting pictures from kids having Troll 2 parties,” says Stephenson. ”Once I realized how much enjoyment fans were getting from this crappy movie, I said, ‘I have to document this.”’ So he made Best Worst Movie, in which he and fellow Troll 2 actor George Hardy — who’s also a dentist — enjoy A-list treatment at screenings and track down their director, Claudio Fragasso, whose other credits include Monster Dog and House 5. The good news for schlock lovers is that Fragasso is planning a sequel. The title? Troll 2: Part 2.