Since this is my last article before Christmas I’m leaving you with some genuine Christmas cheer. Enjoy.
What is it?: Elves is the delightful Christmas tale about a teenage girl who inadvertently allows an elf (singular) to rise from Hell or something. This isn’t the delightful Will Ferrell type elf but a murderous demon troll looking thing. Also it turns out that the elf has some involvement with Nazi occultism and may or may not be the key to birthing the true master race (SPOILER: It is.) Luckily our hapless teen doesn’t have to go it alone. She gets help from an alcoholic ex-cop mall Santa played by Grizzly Adams himself, Mr. Dan Haggerty. We also get plenty of incest, a crazy Grandpa, Nazis shooting people and exploding cars.
Why is it a “Hidden” Gem?: This thing came out on home video from the ever illustrious Action International Pictures in 1989 and as far as I know was quickly forgotten. It’s never had an official DVD release and I haven’t even heard it discussed in the numerous cult movie podcasts I subscribe to. The only way I heard of it was from a brief mention a few years ago on a show I can’t even recall. A large part of this is probably due to it’s association with Christmas. Even some of the most bloodthirsty horror and exploitation fans have a tendency to shy away from any but the most revered Christmas horror offerings. Maybe it’s weird to sully a happy time with death and evil or something but suffice to say that lack of interest or just lack of exposure has caused this little gem to wither in obscurity. Even the most obscure minded DVD distributors probably know enough to not put money behind something that has such a perceived niche market. Fear not though, there are bootlegs abound of this thing, which you can easily grab if you know how to do a Google search. How do you think I found it?
Why is it Worth Your Time?: Reread that description up there. Do you seriously not think this is worth your time? Well press your back button and find another article on here that shoots its load all over Arrested Development or something. Alright so it’s just awesome people in here now right? Good.
In all seriousness this movie is fucking terrible. I say that in the best way possible. My housemates and I watched it a few nights ago and just about every conversation we’ve had has led way to some reference of the gloriously terrible acting and dialogue. You know when you see a particularly crazy dude on the side of the road? One that’s shouting about aliens controlling politicians to put iodine in the world’s supply of Dunkaroos? Now imagine that crazy dude was a movie and you’re pretty much there. The point is that for the better part of a decade you will be telling people about that crazy dude and the same can be said about Elves. It’s just too batshit insane to keep it to yourself, you must share that insanity with people around you so that they too can laugh at it. To that end, writing this has taught me to take notes as I can’t even begin to remember all the gold that exists in this thing’s sparse 80 minutes. That’s probably a good thing though because now I won’t spoil all of it for you.
Let’s get to these characters first. We have Julie Austin as Kirsten, who we meet during an ill-fated séance or nature ceremony or some shit that leads to our titular elf being summoned. The reason I’m confused is because this chick starts out as some kind of hot occult teenager like you’d see in the 80s but then it’s immediately abandoned even before the ceremony ends. Her and her two ditzy as fuck friends (seriously these have got to be the most annoyingly ditzy women in horror cinema) come together to hold a ceremony for the “Sisters of Anti-Christmas” and about 30 seconds into talking about a pagan relationship to nature they just start talking about how Christmas sucks because they don’t get good presents. Glorious. Anyway this girl is pretty messed up, which is explained entirely when she goes home to see her complete bitch mom and rape-y 8 year old brother. And lest you think that that’s the only rape-y incest thing to happen in the movie, wait till the big reveal in the 3rd act that pretty much explains both of the side characters. She also has a secret Nazi for a grandfather. We learn this during a particularly award worthy dialogue exchange that goes something like this: “Is everything alright?” “No Willy, Gramps is a Nazi.”
Since it wouldn’t be believable for this girl and her dysfunctional family to stop a 40 years in the making Nazi plot they get help from the only person you can turn to in these situations: GRIZZLY ADAMS! Yes Dan Haggerty, who is famous for being bearded and being friends with woodland creatures shows up as Mike McGavin, an alcoholic ex-cop mall Santa who goes to great lengths to help some hot girl he barely knows. Oh and don’t worry you won’t get confused about his current occupation as he constantly reminds himself during investigations that “You’re not a detective anymore, you’re Santa.” Anyway this dude pretty much rules throughout this movie. He visits a murder scene and sees a little insignia thing carved in the ground and immediately recognizes it as an ancient rune. Now why would an ex cop know such things? Simple, he read a book on it in college. We learn this when he visits a library and asks the librarian for “this book from college about ancient runes and symbols.” She also knows exactly what he’s talking about so apparently before 1990 there was only one book about such things. Clearly things changed once this movie warned us of the dangers of being without this information. Haggerty tries to figure out how to connect these things to current events while dodging a group of Nazi hit men who want to stop him from thwarting their plan. Eventually he just says fuck it and invades a professor’s home on Christmas Eve to get the explanation, which is so amazing I’m just posting the video below.
So these characters pretty much have to be awesome to make up for whatever the fuck happened with the monster. Aside from the fact that we get elf singular instead of elves plural, they apparently couldn’t find any out of work little people so the elf is entirely animatronic. Since this is on a budget they could even afford a good robot so instead we get this janky little thing that looks like you could power walk away from it. Luckily, as with a ton of 50s sci-fi movies this just adds to the charm and you can laugh your ass off at the ineptitude of these dudes. Luckily we never get to see how their mating mechanics work as that would likely have resulted in massive death by laughter. To be fair though, it’s kind of hard for a Christmas demon to be really scary after we’ve all seen Michael Keaton as Jack Frost.
So let’s run this down. We get insane dialogue, Nazi conspiracies, murderous monsters that slice people’s dicks off and try to fuck our human woman, and a rune expert Santa. True this thing is pretty bad, but it’s a great time if you grab a 30 pack of beers and sit back with some loved ones to celebrate the magic of Christmas. Also this is has possibly the best reveal of swas-tit-kas I’ve ever seen.-ASW