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From Here to Obscurity: Elves

PLEASE NOTE: The movies reviewed in From Here to Obscurity have either never been given an official VHS or DVD release, have been released on VHS but are long out of print and very hard to find, or are readily available in some form but have generally gone unnoticed by most of the general public.

Starring “TV’s Grizzly Adams” Dan Haggerty and a plastic elf puppet on a stick

Directed by Jeffrey (Robo-C.H.I.C.) Mandel


Now let me make one thing perfectly clear right off the bat, okay? Elves is a terrible movie.

T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E!

There’s a very good reason why this movie has practically fallen off the face of the Earth since its video release back around 1990. The script is a total mess, the production values border on public access television level, and there are several stretches in the movie where it seems like absolutely nothing whatsoever is happening even though there are people on the screen doing stuff. I won’t even bother to say that the acting in Elves is awful because to do so would be to acknowledge that I believe what the people were doing in this film was acting, which it is most certainly not. You know the actors had to be bad to be able to totally deadpan some of the dialogue they are required to say.

That said, Elves does have one thing going for it: sheer audacity. I don’t mean the kind of sheer audacity that a Troma movie goes for. You know, the kind where the movie is really over the top and is so self aware of how really over the top it is that you can sense the filmmakers are practically patting themselves on the back for having made something so ridiculously over the top? Not Elves though. Nope, this movie takes itself way too seriously does so in such a low-key manner that it only succeeds in making everything that much more laughable. If you go into Elves expecting anything even remotely resembling a quality movie then you’ve already set yourself up for some deep hurting. However, if you watch Elves knowing full well what you’re about to waste 90 minutes of your life watching the only Christmas movie in existence that involves the occult, the Antichrist, incest, Neo Nazis with really fake German accents, an insane mother that likes drowning pets in the toilet, a perverted kid brother who peeps on his sister while she dresses, a virgin girl wielding an elfstone, Dan Haggerty’s non-stop chain smoking, and a horny, knife-wielding, pistol-packin’ elf, then there’s a very good possibility that you may enjoy this particular lump of cinematic coal.
i>Elves stars Dan Haggerty, who found fame in the 70’s as TV’s Grizzly Adams before getting busted for narcotics and seeing his career go down the drain. Here he plays a chain-smoking, recovering alcoholic, ex-cop turned department store Santa that soon finds himself having to save a young woman and the world itself from the ultimate evil – a horny, satanic, Nazi elf. Let me pause right here and correct myself, because a moment ago I said Dan Haggerty’s chain-smokes in this movie. Good lord, the term chain-smoking doesn’t do justice to what this man does in this film with sticks of tobacco. There are all of about three scenes in the whole damn flick where he doesn’t have a cigarette either in his mouth or in his hand. He smokes during shootouts. He smokes while chasing after bad guys. Hell, he actually smokes while brushing his teeth! I’m amazed he never actually just lit an entire carton of cigarettes and started huffing it. At one point he even jokes “a pack a day keeps the lungs nice and gray”. I think you could die from second hand smoke just by watching Dan Haggerty in this film.

Then there’s this young woman named Kirsten, whose family is anything but normal. Her deranged mom likes standing in front of a mirror smearing lipstick all over her face, and when she’s really feeling especially nutty she enjoys putting the family pet in a pillowcase and drowning it in the toilet. Clearly mom has issues. She also has a kid brother, who seems relatively normal except for the fact that he gets off on watching his sister get naked. Rounding out the almost Addams family is her grandfather, or “Gramps” as they all call him, a wheelchair bound, former Nazi scientist who is part of the diabolical plot by modern day Neo-Nazis to bring about the rise of the master race by unleashing a genetically engineered, elf-like creature in order for it to mate with his granddaughter.

Unfortunately for the remnants of the Third Reich, Gramps has had a change of heart after reading the Bible’s Book of Revelations and realizing that the offspring of his granddaughter and the evil elf would become the Antichrist, thus bringing about Armageddon. Ever notice that most Christians leave out the part about a master race of Aryan super elves when talking about the end times? What’s Pat Robertson trying to hide? Anyway, as best I could figure it, Gramps had no problems serving Hitler, but serving Lucifer, well, that’s where he has to draw the line. Hey, a man has got to have some standards.

Fortunately for the remnants of the Third Reich, Kirsten and two of her girlfriends went out into the woods behind their house – the woods Gramps always told her not to venture into as if three young women would ever listen to an old crankshaft like him – and decided to recreate some of their favorite scenes from The Craft. In doing so, they unknowingly awaken and unleash Satan’s inseminator, which Gramps had apparently buried in those woods long ago for safe keeping.

Are you getting all this?

The elf begins stalking Kirsten and killing anyone that gets in the way, starting with the castration of the coked out department store Santa that was always harassing poor Kirsten. In comes Dan Haggerty’s character, who desperately needs a job, much like the real life Dan Haggerty. Since he’s already fat and has a beard, the store manager decides to hire him as their new Santa. What child wouldn’t want to sit on the lap of a dimestore Santa that smelled of cigarettes and cheap liquor?

The ex-cop in him makes Haggerty curious as to who murdered the previous Santa and the recently evicted from his trailer side of him says its okay if he breaks into the store and secretly lives there while he works for them during the day. Kirsten and her girlfriends also decide to break into the store and have a slumber party with their idiot boyfriends when who should show up but the evil elf and a small band of modern day Nazis, who dress in black hats and trench coats and talk like Colonel Klink. Boy, it’s a good thing for Kirsten that the new alcoholic, chain-smoking, ex-cop Santa is into breaking and entering, making him poised to come to her rescue.

From this point on, murder, mayhem, and more Dan Haggerty chain-smoking ensues, as well as some really lame shootouts and one of the crappiest car chases ever put to film. All the while, the good guys have to defeat the Nazis, prevent the elf from raping and impregnating Kirsten, and in the process unravel the convoluted tale of potential Nazi supremacy by way of Santa’s little helper. It certainly helps that there happens to be a guy with a PhD in elf lore living in the area. Don’t most small towns have their very own authority on elvish mythology? Oh, and the only way to kill the elf is with a magical elfstone, or as you and I call it, a cheap piece of colored crystal the filmmakers got from the prop department.

Despite the title, there is but one elf in the movie, and boy is it a piece of work. Well, it’s definitely a piece of something. It appears that the elf is brought to life by two means: inarticulate puppet on a stick and inarticulate pull toy on a string. I may be wrong but I think the inarticulate puppet on a stick was just placed on a pull toy for a couple of scenes to make it seem like it were moving faster than a slow waddle. You only see it from the waist down a few times and all you see are a pair of puppet feet. Looking sort of like the midget offspring of the Toxic Avenger and Sloth from The Goonies, with its mouth permanently frozen in place, forever crooked and wide open; the elf truly is a sight to behold. Frightening, it is not. Laughable, it most certainly is. And like all good puppets it can be posed with an object to appear as if it’s holding something. In this movie, it will either be a knife or a handgun. Yes, a handgun! Towards the end of the movie, the elf packs a snub-nosed revolver in its claws. If you’re drinking a cup of hot chocolate when you first see the sight of this trigger happy elf then keep some napkins handy because little marshmallows will soon be squirting out your nose.

As I said, Elves is an awful, tacky, at times tasteless movie…but it’s worth viewing once just so you can tell all your friends that you have seen with your own eyes the world’s only Christmas horror movie that stars a chain-smoking Dan Haggerty as an alcoholic ex-cop turned department store Santa who unwittingly becomes the only person who can prevent Neo Nazis from completing their diabolical plan to spawn a murderous elf that must mate with a purebred Aryan virgin by Christmas Eve in order to procreate Adolf Hitler’s half-human/half-elf master race that will eventually conquer the world. I promise that your friends will look at you cross-eyed when you tell them about it. It’s also worth it just for dialogue exchanges like this:

Willie, the terrified kid brother clutching his sister as they’re confronted in their living room by Neo Nazis and learn the horrible truth about Gramps:

“Is everything going to be all right?”

The equally frightened Kirsten replying in an ultra-serious monotone voice:

“No, Willie. Gramps is a Nazi.”


1 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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