I have to tell you, over the years I just haven’t been that big of a fan of Elvira, the character created by Cassandra Peterson. The big busted, in your face character resembling of someone from The Adams Family and the original Vampira the horror movie hostess just hasn’t been one I care that much for. Elvira has for the last number of years hosted bad horror movies on various television shows, and at horror events. She has made a career out of bad horror, and her own exploits into film, especially in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, are actually more frequent than many may imagine. From the various roles to cameos, Peterson has milked the character for as much as anyone could. One would be mistaken though to take her ability to make a buck off of the character as her primary interest in the genera. The truth is, Cassandra Peterson actually loves the genera and especially the old horror classics of Roger Coreman, (The King of the B movie) and actors such as Christopher Lee and especially Vincent Price to whom this film is dedicated. What transpires on screen is a surprising, entertaining, fun romp that pays tribute of these genera, especially the movie The Pit and the Pendulum among others.
In Elvira’s Haunted Hills, we see Elvira and her handmaiden, Zou, Zou, played by Mary Joe Smith decide to go to Paris. Along the way they catch a ride on a carriage and spend the night at a scary castle. While there, they come into contact with Lord Vladimere Hellsubus and those who occupy the castle. It isn’t long before we see the likeness between Elvira and Lord Hellsubus long lost, departed wife. There is a plot to keep Elvira on site and horror ensues. As to serious character development, don’t expect it here. Instead expect something that resembles in some ways more so The Rocky Horror Picture Show than a serious film. That isn’t to say the film isn’t fun and while I am not proud of the things I laughed at, the truth is, I did found myself laughing.
Peterson put up approximately $1,000,000 of her own money to make this film, many will speculate it may be lacking since most budgets are considerably more. Peterson was able to get a cast of respectable horror actors, including, Richard O’Brien, noted for his role in the Rocky Horror Picture Show due to their own love for the genera. The quality of film was also magnified as they filmed on location in Romania. The set design, location, and effects greatly add to this tribute of the old classic B Horror movie. The direction provided by Sam Irvin is quite nice and while there is choppiness at times in the editing, the style actually fits the old style of horror this movie pays tribute to. There is the appearance at times that the film appears too polished.
In watching movies I always try to find something spiritual, sometimes it is hard, and while this movie is fun I thought I would never find anything spiritual in it. While watching the special features I did find something spiritual, at least I saw it that way. I was amazed and impressed during the commentary features at the cast’s appreciation for the era of horror films this film is dedicated to. The old Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and others carried a meaning often lost on today’s horror fans, but more than that, is an apparent lack of appreciation of those great forerunners by the contemporary filmmakers themselves. While Peterson and Irvin may not be the absolute best at these genera, they have a love for it that translates nicely.
The love of the genera by Peterson and Irvin caused me to reflect on something that for me is quite spiritual, that is the appreciation of those who have walked before and made the history of that which one loves. The need for us to do this could be said about various groups, from union workers to civil rights leaders, but it can also be said about people of faith. The contemporary church seems to be so caught up in the present that they often forget about the sacrifices of those who endured the past. While this film is campy and not all that great it still finds a way to be fun and yet respectful of past films, filmmakers, and actors of the genera it seeks to pay tribute to. There is effort to go out of the way to make sure this takes place, even replicating scenes from some of those old movies. How much better off would we as a society, or those involved in a church be if they made the effort to recognize, respect, and replicate out of respect some of the pioneers of the past? The need to be perfect in what we do isn’t nearly as important as the point that we do something. When I was young I didn’t have the measure of respect for history I do now. I regret that, I regret it because I could have learned more that could have led to a more productive life, but I also lost out on the joy of those experiences. Peterson and Irvin enjoy what they are doing, and while I don’t appreciate all of the humor, I appreciated the tribute they pay to the history of their craft. Many people of faith, whether involved in music, or a different mode of teaching know little of their past, an example here, is many now use film in church to illustrate spiritual points, but the early history of that goes back to Hollywood Jesus. The challenges of some of those involved in the process, such as David Bruce and others include valuable lessons, lessons on how the some people of faith responded, and still respond, yet the dedication to move forward and share ones on position on faith. Yes many now use this media, some have taken credit and speak out on the topic, but some of us here at Hollywood Jesus started it all, not for anything other than the desire to share our faith in a rational, reasonable way with those who love movies. Yes, there are lessons of the past we can all learn from and pay respect to, funny that it took Elvira to remind me of this. But all faith traditions have heroes, some of those heroes can still speak to us if we seek to listen.
Elvira, Haunted Hills as mentioned earlier isn’t a great film, but for those who love the old classic horror movies, it can be quite fun and enjoyable. It isn’t scary, there are adult themes, and some pretty campy acting at times, but that is what they wanted out of this product. I was also pleased with the special features. More is provided than most products and the content adds to the enjoyment of the DVD. I would recommend the product for ownership to those who enjoy the old B Horror films, otherwise, if you just want a good time, it is certainly worth a rental.
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