In "Troll," a movie that aspires to be dreary, a creature who looks like Judd Hirsch after a two-week bender travels from apartment to apartment; with a syringe that springs from his glowing green ring, he turns each inhabitant into a lush, flowing green plant.
Now, before you invite this fellow to take care of that troublesome bay window with a northern exposure, be advised. As screen writer Ed Naha is kind enough to explain fully 70 minutes into the movie, the jolly gardener is actually Torok the Troll, who, since his defeat by the good humans in time immemorial, has been conspiring each Walpurgis Night to re-create his fairy kingdom. So the little buggers in the plants aren't aphids, but little trolls -- Torok's army, ready to do his bidding.
The story centers on a family new to the building. Poor Michael Moriarty sleepwalks through his role as the father, a book reviewer, with a lot of high-pitched mewling. Shelley Hack, late of "Charlie's Angels," demonstrates that she deserves better than "Troll" (no small feat); she suffers, though, from cinematographer Romano Albani's haplessly flat, video-style lighting. Their daughter, by the way, is inhabited by the Troll. This makes her behave badly.
If you told Sonny Bono, who plays a "swinger" in an upstairs apartment, that he ought to be embarrassed, he'd tell you he was just having a good time with the part. Be embarrassed, Sonny. And as a witch who lives upstairs, June Lockhart, with her Elizabethan diction, delivers her slangy, foul-mouthed lines as if they were in a foreign language. When she says, "Close, but no cigar," you think she's really talking about a cigar.
Troll, at area theaters, is rated PG-13, and contains violence and some scenes that may be disturbing to children.