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John’s Horror Corner: Elves (1989), a delightfully bad “holiday horror” featuring Grizzly Adams attempting to prevent the rise of an inbreeding superhuman race of Nazi Christmas elves. YES. You read that right!

December 17, 2022

MY CALL: This was one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve seen in a long time, and I love it for that. The gore and death scenes are poor. But the story is so batshit crazy that the storytelling itself (and the goofy-looking looking evil elf) make this a bad movie diamond in the rough. MORE MOVIES LIKE Elves: For more holiday horror, check out Black Christmas (1974, 2006 remake, 2019 reimagining), All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018), Await Further Instructions (2018), Holidays (2016; Christmas), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), Krampus (2015), Better Watch Out (2016), Silent Night Deadly Night (1984), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) Gremlins (1984), Tales from the Crypt Season 1 (1989; And All Through the House) and Tales from the Crypt (1972; And All Through the House). Skip The Oracle (1985) and Silent Night Deadly Night part 2 (1987).

After unknowingly summoning a mutant elf using her grandfather’s occult work, Kirsten (Julie Austin; Fatal Exposure) and her friends wander home from the forest as a Ghoulies-like rubber, mucus-glazed monster claw emerges from the earth. Yup. This is gonna’ be good!

This rubber elf claw is the kind of prop you imagine being at the end of a stick, held just out of camera frame, as it motions towards things stiffly and menacingly. And as a fan of cheap 80s horror, these hardly-prehensile monster limbs often feel like characters themselves (like the stand-in for the monster before it appears in the late-movie full-body shot). But yes, this limb is attached to a gnarly malformed elf which follows Kirsten home, breaks into the house, and attacks her perverted little brother who was peeping at Kirsten naked in the shower. Staying in perverted theme, a lude department store Santa that gets handsy with Kirsten is stabbed to death in his genitalia by the elf. With the death of the sex-offender mall Santa, a down and out Grizzly Adams (Dan Haggerty; The Chilling, Terror Night) is hired the same day as his replacement.

It turns out that while Kirsten’s mother suspects a rabid racoon for the domestic elf attacks, Kirsten’s grandfather knows all too well what is happening. He knows about this evil elf and its purpose—which is to breed (with Kirsten) and create a superhuman race of Nazi lineage! And just in case that little plot point wasn’t ridiculous enough, her grandfather is also her father! She was created by selective inbreeding by her ex-Nazi father/grandfather to carry the perfect set of genes for elf-breeding. About now you might wonder how this could be ideal… they don’t explain it. But as a sliver of redemptive morality, her grandfather—who admitted to drugging and impregnating his own daughter—has had a change of heart and no longer wants the Elven Nazi master race to come to fruition. But fret not, there are other contemporary Nazis who plan to see that this happens! Apparently the Nazis had been studying elves for decades, and one of gramps’ old colleagues still believes in the rise of the next Reich.

NAZI HORROR SIDEBAR: For yet more Nazi horror, you should explore seeing Iron Sky (2012), Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race (2019), Dead Snow (2009), Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (2014), Overlord (2018), Hellboy (2004), Green Room (2015), Yoga Hosers (2016), Manborg (2011), Zombie Lake (1981), Oasis of the Zombies (1982), The Keep (1983), Frankenstein’s Army (2013), Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003), Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012) and Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017). And while not using Nazis as a direct antagonist, I’ll include Blood Vessel (2019).

I was somewhat disappointed and, in my head, blaming a meager budget when I discovered there was only one “elf” in this movie called Elves. But you know what? Our one elf’s face is awesome. He has a permanent expression of slack-jawed horrific disdain like he just smelled a life-threateningly bad fart while simultaneously becoming enraged as he realized who dealt it.

Half the action is human on human, guns and fists, and is quite unexciting. The monster effects are incredibly weak, infrequent, and very little worthy gore or horror action happens on screen. But I found this surprisingly forgivable. Rather than rubber guts and death scenes, this movie instead thrives on the wacktastic appearance of the elf and the complete lunacy of the story. And boy is it a bonkers laugh. I really enjoyed hearing the layers of drug-induced storytelling.

One of the most horrifying things in this movie is when Kirsten’s sociopathic mother (Deanna Lund; Roots of Evil, Superstition 2) drowns a cat in a toilet, wrongly thinking the cat attacked her young son—you know, before the rabid racoon theory. Thankfully, she gets hers when the elf electrocutes her in the bathtub.

Director and co-writer Jeffrey Mandel (Cyber-C.H.I.C) has made more of an unintentional comedy than a horror movie here. And I am just fine with that. While I enjoy or even rave about some entertaining bad movies, most of them I’d never really care to see again. However, much like Christmas, I could see myself enjoying Elves every year as I give new movie-goers the gift of this bad movie gem.

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