Sunday, December 26, 2010

Film Review: ELVES (1989, Jeffrey Mandel)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Tag-line: "They don't work for Santa anymore!"
Best exchange: "You look terrible." –"Yeah, well, I had a rough day at work... Santa got murdered."

In a familiar alleyway, now blanketed with snow and discarded tinsel...

–"What are you talking about?"
"It's my new Christmas tradition. Soon it'll be yours, too."
–"Tell me more."
"Alright, so once upon a time there were these young feminists who went into the woods to make a sacrifice to their goddess of 'anti-Christmas.'

I know that it sounds like one of those bad horror films which is trying to be bad and in the process loses all of its charm, but trust me, it's not. One of them, a virgin, cuts her hand by accident and her blood awakens an evil army of elves.

Er, actually she just awakens one elf. The budget was an issue. More on that later. Oh, and by the way this is the drawing of the goddess of anti-Christmas."

–"A feminist drew that?"
"Just go with it. Also, the elves were created by Nazis."
–"Nazis?! What kind of a Christmas movie is this, anyway?"
"I never said that it was a class act. Anyway, a series of bizarre events take place involving Nazis, elves, Christmas, and often a combination of all three. We meet a sleazy department store Santa
who snorts coke and utters the infamously quotable line 'SANTA SAID...ORAL.'

Before we get a chance to adequately hate him, he gets stabbed to death quite gratuitously in the nuts by an elf.

...Sooooo it's all up to a down-on-his-luck, chain-smoking, replacement department store Santa to save Christmas. Said new Santa is played by Dan Haggerty- Grizzly Adams himself!"

–"I remember that. It was kind of like LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, except not as good."
"I don't know what you're talking about, but it makes Grizzly Adams very sad to hear you say that. Look at those big, doleful eyes. What sincerity! What excellent pathos! When he's on the screen, emotional responses are being enacted in the viewer, and it almost feels as if you're watching a real movie. He puts a lot of heart and soul into this VHS tape. He's a bit of a hardass, too. One of my favorite parts involves a DAWN OF THE DEAD-style mall shoot-out with some Nazis led by a guy who kinda looks like a young Michael Ironside."

–"Don't you mean Neo-Nazis? That guy's like 35."
"No, the movie takes great pains to explain that they are World War II Nazis. But don't worry about that- the biggest issue here is probably the monster."
–"You mean the ELVES?"
"Yeah, uh...the elf. Its mouth doesn't close. At all.

It has so few points of articulation, that it can pretty much move just one arm. And it's mouth doesn't close.

–"Hey I like the detail on that elf ear, there."
"Did I mention that it can't close it's mouth?"
–"That doesn't sound like a deal-breaker."
"Well, it's not. And I'm recommending the movie. Maybe this is why I'm recommending the movie. Regardless, the end result is that the elf looks like some sort of a lazy-eyed mouth breather. It's supposed a member of the new Nazi master race and the mouth thing knocks off at least 50 IQ points, even for a monster. Especially for a monster. I think the goblins in TROLL 2 probably look better. Consequently, the scariest thing in the entire movie is probably these giant teddy bears in leiderhosen."

–"That actually is pretty scary."
"As I often say, it's the little things that push a movie over the edge. Those head-scratching details that have you wondering if the movie was actually made by a human being. As far as I can tell, writer/director Jeffrey Mandel is an American, but he's got a few touches that are certainly worthy of Fulci or Castellari or Fragasso. Like how cheerful the Mom is as she drowns the family cat in the toilet."

–"What the hell? Why does she do that?!"
"Sometimes context can ruin a moment of genius. Then we got this annoying brat who spies on his sister showering:

and then screams 'You've got fucking big tits and I'm gonna tell everybody I saw em!' Why is this in the movie!? Why is this in a movie? And I haven't even touched on the whole CHINATOWN scene where a daughter learns that her grandfather is also her father."
"Exactly. ELVES is brutal. Also, someone utters the groan-inducing line 'When there is no more room in hell, the elves will walk the earth.'"
–"Yikes. It sounds pretty good."
"That's because it is pretty good. Also, David Lynch might be an ELVES fan."
"Check it out- a year before WILD AT HEART, we a psychotic female bathroom breakdown that involves excessive lipstick, kinda like Diane Ladd's in that Lynch film!"

–"I think you're stretchin' it."
"Maybe I am. But if ELVES somehow impacted the work of David Lynch, that would make me very happy. It's also the only holiday movie I can think of where Santa gets stabbed in the crotch repeatedly until he dies AND Grizzly Adams teaches a master's class in acting."
–"Well, pass the nog- this sounds like a yule-log gem."
"It's some kinda log. But I love it just the same."

-Sean Gill

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