Zoom and Pan: Troll 2
Panned by many — including its own cast members — as the best/worst film ever made, Troll 2 (buy it) doesn't seem to offer its audience much beyond unbelievable one-liners and general befuddlement. (And, strangely enough, no trolls — the villains are technically goblins.) People love to hate it: the film holds the coveted position of number 58 in IMDB's Bottom 100 list.
The all-American, nuclear Waits family (accompanied by the ghost of dead grandpa Seth), takes a holiday in the dreary town of Nilbog, UT, population 26. They plan to stay in the home of a Nilbog family in order to gain some kind of authentic, old-timey experience. The residents of Nilbog play host, repeatedly attempting to feed their guests strange green food that, it turns out, will either turn them into trees, slime, or slimy corpses, depending on the director's whim. Once transformed, the victims are then sloppily devoured by goblins that look, according to Mike Nelson of MST3K, like Larry David on a bad day.
A Goblin Utopia
Despite the gruesome subject matter, Troll 2 actually presents its own utopian ideal in Nilbog. The residents, who look like castoffs from the There Will Be Blood extras auditions, are all vegetarians. The town pastor rails against the sin of meat-eating with an embarrassing vigor, condemning omnivores for "violating their own bodies" with "the steak of smote carcasses."
Troll 2's content recalls other u/dystopian visions: namely, the class allegory that defined H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and the sterile society of the 1993 action classic, Demolition Man (buy it). In The Time Machine, a time traveler appears in London circa 802,701 A.D. to find that humanity has evolved into two distinct species: the sexy, ignorant Eloi and the cannibalistic, vicious Morlocks. In Demolition Man, a maverick policeman wakes up from a cryogenic slumber in a seemingly utopian Los Angeles, where the crime rate is zero, every disease known to man has been eliminated, and every restaurant is a Taco Bell. Like Troll 2, these works use the device of the "tourist" to explore fantastic worlds that turn out to be much more than meets the eye.
"We're vegetarians here in Nilbog," the podunk sheriff tells our avatars. Of course, it's a lot more complicated than that. Like the Morlocks of Wells' fiction, the ugly, blue collar "goblins" feed off of the bodies of the spoiled, emotionally dead gentry. They feed the Waits family and provide them with shelter, just as the Morlocks cultivate the Eloi for their own consumption.
Wait! How can the goblins eat people if they're vegetarians? That doesn't make any sense! One could peg that logical lapse to the fact that Troll 2 was written by Italians who couldn't really speak English, but I have another theory. Green living advocates will be delighted to find out that the residents of Nilbog have figured out how to turn low-efficiency animals into high efficiency plant life and algae! By feeding their victims a magical goblin chemical, they reduce the carbon footprint of their diet and detoxify their food. Exercising sustainable agricultural practices, their technique is pesticide- and toxin-free, and they even slaughter their own meat. If the people of Nilbog are ecological vegetarians, eating humans is a logically sound practice.
This doesn't bode well for the Waits family, whose role as tourists echo the general American hostility toward vegetarianism. A few scenes point out the disconnect between the tourists and the town: Joshua pissing on the dinner table, Michael puzzling over a vegetable cookbook, a corn cob sex scene, and the climactic appearance of a double-decker bologna sandwich.
The corn cob scene points out the degree to which vegetable matter rules life in Nilbog. For some reason, the humanoid queen of the goblins uses her magical powers to seduce a teenage boy. She brings him a cob of corn and asks, "Do you like it? Shall we eat it... together?" Sex is now less of an exchange of salty bodily fluids and more of a passionate, pseudo-paganistic celebration of the harvest. The queen and the boy bite into the corn together, kissing without actually touching. As they eat, someone off-screen throws popcorn onto the set until the boy is buried in it. The boy immediately regrets his actions. Like a similar scene in Demolition Man, the male recipient of these advanced sexual advances cannot appreciate them for what they are, and instead clamors for the disease-ridden saturnalia of the dark ages.
In a more juvenile treatment of the same theme, Joshua, the youngest spawn of the Waits clan, fends off hungry goblins by wielding a bologna sandwich, which the goblins and their queen decry as "full of toxins." Though it's meant to be over-the-top and silly, isn't that kind of true? Oscar Meyer's classic bologna contains such food-like substances as corn syrup, sodium lactate, "flavor," sodium nitrite, potassium chloride, and so on. Joshua defends himself with a perfect example of the industrialization of food, which stands as the antithesis of the goblins' artisanally crafted manslime.
Once they escape from Nilbog, the family returns home — but to what? Suburban sprawl, calcified gender roles, and a refrigerator filled with nothing but water and poisoned apples. Mrs. Waits, comfortable and complacent, eats an apple and falls to the goblins. In horror, Joshua can only look. He realizes that they can't stop the food revolution: they will be eaten.