Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001)

Bless Cassandra Peterson for her bountiful bewitching bodacious bosom and valley girl persona that has delighted the TV screen for several decades in the form of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I’ve only been an Elvira fan for a relatively short period, to be honest. I had beenn aware of her in the general pop culture sense for ages, but I had never actually seen anything starring her until just couple of years ago when I watched her first movie from the 80s and instantly fell into her charm. Both of them in fact.

Being very much a personal project for Peterson this time around, the second foray into the Elvira centered feature films proved out to be a different but never the less amusing affair. Everything remains very true to the character in every aspect and the movie truly inhabits all the right ingredients for a great gothic comedy. I especially love the boob pun on the title. The movie doesn’t quite live up to the same level of excellence as the first movie in terms of engaging story but what it can’t meet in special effects and visuals, man power and budget, it more than counters with amusing playfulness, low budget charm and innovation. You could even say it was fortunate for all parties involved that the one million shoe string budget that the movie had forced them to shoot in Romania and do plenty of last minute changes and ad lib rewrites while on set, because the end results really do remind you of the Robert Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations that the movie is heavily and lovingly spoofing.

Unfortunately I am at the moment not that familiar with the Poe movies Corman directed so much of the direct homages of the spoofs inevitably went a bit over my head. It’s still an amusing movie but some of the more subtle humor inevitably is lost on me because I don’t pick up on the cues and references. That’s perhaps why it took me awhile before I was fully enjoying the movie. It’s not as direct with its jokes that you’re laughing constantly but after you warm up to the approach, it is highly amusing. Maybe it’ll improve on further re-watches now that I’ve developed sense of what type of a movie it is, and I hopefully have been able to  watch the Vincent Price starred Poe adaptations to get the true parody experience.

I admit to have had a bit of a nerdgasm when I realized Richard O’Brien was in this. He is one of the many delights in the movie in his role of the Lord of the castle Elvira ends up staying at. I have to say I was devastated when I watched the making up extras and discovered they initially wanted Fabio to play the hunky stable boy, but Fabio apparently didn’t get the joke and thus declined the part. But once again for this production it proved out to be a blessing in disguise, as the sculpted Greek man God in flesh that they ultimately ended up casting for the role didn’t speak a word of english, so they ended up dubbing all his lines and this gave them the opportunity to really ham up the effect of the completely mismatched lip sync for great comedic impact.

Few movies have the ability to make you smile just by thinking of the title alone, and this certainly falls into that rare category. It might not be the best movie you see the entire year or blow you away with its acting performances but it’s extremely solid comedy if it manages to push your funny buttons.

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