Cassandra Peterson - Elvira, Mistress of the Dark/Lady Elura Hellsubus
Richard O’Brien - Lord Vladimere Hellsubus
Mary Scheer - Lady Ema Hellsubus
Scott Atkinson - Dr. Bradley Bradley
Heather Hopper - Lady Roxanna Hellsubus
Mary Jo Smith - Ziou Ziou
Gabi Andronache - Adrian
Year - 2001
Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4
There are many hills in the world. There’s that hill where Jack and Jill went to fetch that pail of water. Julie Andrews danced on one while singing that the hills are alive in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Some mutant inbreds live to terrorize THE HILLS HAVE EYES. And then there’s MTV’s THE HILLS, starring LC, Heidi, Spencer, Audrina, Asshole McMurphy, Jackoff Johnson, and some other airheads that are pretty much ruining what once used to be a credible music channel. Do people really watch that show and take it seriously? Anyway, out of all those hills, only two are worth visiting time and time again. And those hills belong to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
Many of us first experienced time at Elvira’s hills back in 1988 when ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK was released on to the world. Those huge white mountains with a gap between them where I would like to stick my---I mean, ELVIRA was a great funny film that became a cult classic and brings a smile to everyone’s faces every October. People expected a sequel soon after, but Cassandra Petersen [Elvira’s alter-ego] had a problem: No movie studio wanted to finance another Elvira adventure. The 1990s were a time of angst, rebelling, gangsta rap, and bubblegum pop courtesy of The Spice Girls and Hanson. While Petersen had beer endorsements and was cashing in on the success of her previous work, her dream to make a sequel seemed out of reach. So Petersen did the only thing she could do: finance the film herself [along with her then-husband] and create her own film company to distribute it. It took a long time, but 2002 saw the release of Elvira’s long awaited sequel: ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS. And while it’s great to see Elvira and her hills again, the return visit isn’t as special or as funny the second time around.
In 1851, Elvira (Cassandra Petersen) and her French maid, Zou Zou (Mary Jo Smith), are traveling throughout Romania as they head for Paris. Why? Because Paris is the location of Elvira’s show. However, they lack money for travel and shelter, resorting to skip out of inns everytime they’re asked [or axed in this case] for the bill. They end up hitchhiking where they encounter Dr. Bradley Bradley (Scott Atkinson), who picks them up and takes them to Castle Hellsubus to stay awhile. There, she meets the Hellsubus family: the hearing-impaired Vladimere (Richard O’Brien), the bug-eyed and paranoid Ema (Mary Scheer), and the pale and sickly Roxanna (Heather Hopper). Everyone reacts surprised at Elvira’s presence, as she looks just like Elura, Vladimere’s late first wife who apparently killed herself due to the castle curse. However, she soon learn that nothing as it seems. Did Elura kill herself or was she murdered? What’s really going on with Vladimere’s behavior? Did Elvira really lose her virginity at the circus? I knew I hated clowns for a reason...
ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS is a clear homage to those Roger Corman films based on Edgar Allan Poe’s work like THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, and British horror films created by Hammer Studios many years ago. Even the film is dedicated to Vincent Price, who starred in a few of those Roger Corman films. And while it’s a nice homage to those films, ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS is still not as good as it probably could have been. I love ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK. I just like the sequel.
The film works best as a comedy, and three-quarters of the jokes in the film do work pretty well. Obviously, most of them involve Elvira and her huge tits, but that’s to be expected after the last film. I mean, one full scene where Dr. Bradley Bradley and Elvira are traveling inside a bumpy stagewagon involve Bradley grabbing and stuffing his face in between Elvira’s cleavage just to stay balanced. Plus she still wears that low-cut tight black dress that displays her buxom shape, so the boobs never escape your sight. Plus there are a lot of funny puns, and moments where Elvira breaks the 4th wall and speaks to the audience. Elvira never stops being the butt of many jokes and handles them with class as she usually does.
The supporting characters do their part as well. Zou Zou seems to have an endless supply of items in between her boobs, pulling out things out of the blue. Vladimere’s attempt to cheer up an uninterested Elura during one of the flashbacks is quite funny in a stupid way. And then there’s the stable stud, Adrian’s (Gabi Andronache), dubbed voice that never matches his moving lips. It’s like watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in HERCULES IN NEW YORK, but funnier. And there are homages to THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM and THE SHINING, which work well. These characters aren’t as funny as Elvira is but they hold their own.
But then again, the jokes in this film aren’t close to being funny as the ones in ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK. That movie always makes me laugh. This one only did mildly so. It’s obvious what the jokes and gags are, but they just don’t make your stomach hurt. It’s a homage to cheesy, yet cool, Corman films but doesn’t take advantage of what they did right and what they did wrong. It just comes off as an imitation and a pretty mediocre one at that.
The story also interferes with the jokes, as there’s TOO MUCH plot in this film. We get Elvira’s journey to make it to Paris. We have the castle curse and how it effects the Hellsubus family. We have Vladimere’s weird behavior. We have Roxanna’s illness. We have the mystery as to what really happened to Elura and how she’s able to possess Elvira’s body at times. We have the weird lab in the basement. We have so many subplots in a 90 minute film that it’s almost too much and doesn’t feel as cohesive as the much more understandable story from ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK. I understand Petersen [who co-wrote the script] wanted to do as many homages to her favorite B-movie horror films of the past, but it’s just overwhelming and gets away from what the story should be telling its audience. So it hurts the comedic flow of the film and leaves us with gags that don’t really mean much at the end.
My favorite part of the film is where Elvira sings about losing her virginity and uses as many sexual innuendos as possible within 2 minutes. It’s very funny and probably the only time in the film where I really, really laughed hard. It’s just so silly but very clever at the same time. If the film had more scenes like this one, it would have been more effective.
Director Sam Irvin does well with the very low budget he’s given. It’s pretty much Directing 101 but uses a lot of style when it comes to the flashback scenes with Vladimere and Elura. We get some slow motion, fast motion [always reminds me of Benny Hill], nice transitional phases, and cool superimposition.
The SFX are barely there but they’re used pretty well. The castle set looks like a set built on a Hollywood lot, just like in the old days of horror, which gives the film a very nice nostalgic feel. The castle has this huge crack running through it, which implies something big is gonna happen to tear the castle in two. We have ghost images, a PIT AND THE PENDULUM set piece, and other things that are cool. I kind of wish the film was shot in black and white, because I think it would have given this film the kick it needed for it to work better. In this case, color doesn’t really work for ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS for me.
The acting is pretty good, I gotta say. Cassandra Petersen can play Elvira in her sleep at this point. She’s still charming and in her 50s, still pretty darn hot. She’s the glue that holds the film together and she does it well. Richard O’Brien, from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, overacts a storm here and seems to be having tons of fun. I actually enjoyed him alot here. He was quite the character to say the least. Mary Jo Smith does well as Elvira’s sidekick. Her facial expressions won me over. Scott Atkinson played the perverted Dr. Bradley Bradley very well, to the point I was convinced he was a pervert. He’s definitely a swarmy mother, that’s for sure. Mary Scheer, better known for her MAD TV days, plays a convincing bitch. Heather Hopper, who starred on GOOD MORNING MISS BLISS aka SAVED BY THE BELL: THE EARLY YEARS, had nice comic timing as Roxanna. Her part could have been more substantial though. And Gabi Andronache was funny as the dubbed Adrian. His boobs were as big as Elvira’s though. I think even Fabio was jealous.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED WHILE DROOLING OVER ELVIRA’S HILLS
1. Being chained while someone traps you behind a brick wall is more horrible than being trapped behind a brick house. At least a brick house is mighty mighty and would just let it all hang out.
2. If you have big boobs, don’t ever ride in a horse carriage with Dr. Bradley Bradley. He’ll give you a free breast exam with every bump on the road. At least he could be saving you from cancer!
3. Vladimere can’t stand loud noise due to his hearing problem. How ironic. You’d think Riff Raff wouldn’t mind loud music.
4. Roxanna has the curse of Elura. Man, once you do GOOD MORNING MISS BLISS, you either do soap operas, weight loss reality shows, bare your ass for NYPD BLUE, or act in straight-to-DVD films. Eh, at least your sister isn’t on PASSIONS.
5. Ema is one mean, paranoid bitch. I guess losing her Cabana Boy made her bitter as hell.
6. The interior of the castle has a huge crack running through it. Whitney Houston won’t be visiting there any time soon. After all, "Crack is Wack!"
7. The spirit of Elura went inside of Elvira’s body and spoke through her. I’d like to go inside Elvira too, but in a much different manner.
8. Brothers who sleep with their sister-in-laws sometimes lose their heads over their adulterous actions. As long as it’s the head on top and not the other head, I’m fine with that fact.
9. Girls who faint get on Elvira’s nerves. Sucks for you, Marie Osmond.
10. Flashing your boobs will help you get a ride while hitchhiking. It can also get you rides during Spring Break and Mardi Gras that you’ll forget the next morning. Wink, wink.
THE FINAL HOWL
Although it’s not as great as ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK, ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS is still a worthy successor in Elvira’s movie history. If you’re an Elvira fan, you probably already own this. If you’re a big Elvira fan, rent it and check it out. This is a film you’ll either like or hate, given how you feel about B-movies. ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS would be a mediocre film, but Elvira’s presence gives it an extra notch in my book. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wax my candlestick as I continue to admire Elvira’s big, um, pumpkins. Sigh...