Troll 2: A Thematic Analysis
Every generation, a film comes along that defines the way we think about movies. Scorcese’s brutal and brilliant Goodfellas, packed with rich, dense tracking shocks and the tarnished glamour of the mobster life; Lord of the Rings, the sweeping fantasy epics that redefined the way we look at genre films. And then there’s Troll 2, a layered, witty, understated masterpiece that bubbles over with imagery and thematic elements to rival any Linklater, Anderson, or Iniratu outing.
Troll 2 follows the harrowing story of the young Joshua, who holidays with his family to the mysterious town of Nilbog (which is, as the film slowly reveals through barely perceptible nods and hints, goblin spelt backwards). Things start going very wrong for the family, the very depiction of all-American wholesomeness, led by a staggering, screen-dominating performance by George Hardy as the powerful patriarch of the Wilts tribe. Watching his nuanced take on the character, it’s hard to believe that he’s a dentist by trade, and not an actor who could stand up to the likes of Pacino and Norton with ease and style. The direction, too, is flawless: through repeated use of a single, striking shot of lightning balanced with the use of a repeated musical theme, the film implants immovable images in the viewer’s mind that refuse to be shaken.
The film, for all it may seem nothing but a practice in finger-chewing suspense, is actually a perceptive diatribe on puberty and burgeoning sexuality, which, as the film depicts, are inevitabilities of growing up that will eventually murder and eat your entire family. The chilling Creedence Leonore Gielgud plays as a juxtaposition between the mother and the whore; at once nurturing her goblin offspring (created through the use of ground-breaking prosthetics that Spielberg would later quote as influence for his mildly entertaining creature feature, Triceratops Park) and acting as an object of sexual desire for the film’s boisterous and hilarious group of teenage boys. The most erotically charged scene in the movie comes when she arrives at their caravan with a corn-on-the-cob, only to fill the tiny space with mountains of popcorn as she seduces one of it’s unlucky occupants, juxtaposes the thing that once bought such childhood joy-popcorn- with the horror, fear, and death that lead from pursuing sexual desire. The scene drips with unconsummated sexual tension, pulsing with latency and potency. This isn’t the kind of sexy you’ll see in most mainstream movies; it’s real and raw, and allegedly unsimulated.
Joshua, the young boy at the film’s epicentre, plays out similar themes of the apposition of puberty and childhood. Regular visits from his grandfather (played by a disappointing Richard Attenborough) are held up against scenes where he is forced to rebel against the incoming goblin force through any means possible, including one disturbing sequence where he urinates on the family’s dinner to stop them eating poisoned food (you wouldn’t know it from watching the scene, but instead of freeze-framing the actors, the director chose to shoot the scene with them in absolute stillness). Joshua, and to a lesser extent his sister Holly (who mercifully escapes any of the flash-of-flesh sexualising that many young actresses at the time were bestowed with) are innocents against a corrupted town, forced to battle their loved ones to keep the goblin threat at bay. Alas, it’s all for nought, but their fight makes compelling viewing.
Overall, Troll 2 is a deeply considered piece of work, with universal themes that appeal to everyone: age is represented in the stunningly choreographed shot of a fly crawling across a young man’s face as he screams in terror, while Joshua follows his bouncy red ball around to keep him safe. Profound, moving, and not afraid to go to the darkest places in the human psyche, Troll 2 remains one of the most important movies of the last half-century.
Rating: Ten Goblins out of a possible Ten