After my hit-or-miss experience with Netflix’s horror recommendations, I decided to revisit an old favorite that has become a Halloween tradition in my household, and follow that up with a new release from a familiar franchise.
‘Elvira: Mistress of the Dark’
In my home, it just doesn’t feel like Halloween without Elvira partaking in the fun. Over the years, the horror hostess has grown from television personality to a sexy icon of the genre. When her popularity peaked in the late ’80s, it came as no surprise that a studio would make a movie centering on this darkly eccentric character.
Sadly, ‘Elvira: Mistress of the Dark’ did poorly at the box office, but it’s never been forgotten, steadily garnering a cult following since it was released on VHS and Laserdisc. Personally, I think the movie is wildly misunderstood and underappreciated. Its satirical humor and ironic sensibilities are lost on most audiences. This isn’t a typical horror/comedy flick, but rather an intentionally bad and over-the-top B-movie that imagines Elvira as a real person who’s down on her luck. A romantic at heart, she dreams of her own Las Vegas stage show. Since she hosts awful, low-budget B-pictures, it’s only fitting that she should be the star of her own. Elvira gets that opportunity after learning about a great aunt’s inheritance which she must collect in the uptight, snooty, highly conservative and sexually repressed New England town of Fallwell, Massachusetts.
Of course, much of the comedy comes from the fish-out-of-water angle. This provides several amusing gags involving Elvira’s tense confrontations with the locals, especially Edie McClurg’s hilarious Chastity Pariah. (Gotta love that name.) The men are hypnotized by her… ahem… ample personality. The women are threatened by her… um, shapely demeanor; and the kids are simply fascinated by the way she brings some much needed life into this small town. But what I always find myself enjoying most is seeing the vampish quick-wit and Valley Girl speech performance from Petersen, who pokes plenty of fun at her herself, at others and even the movie she’s in. The central plot with Elvira’s great uncle Talbot (W. Morgan Sheppard) is there simply to move the narrative, but the real joy of this cult favorite comes from the endless visual gags, double entendrés and various plays-on-words immersed in this wacky world of supernatural horror.
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the veterinarian from the Spanish found-footage zombie flick ‘[REC]’, this second sequel to the franchise attempts to answer that very question. Set on the same day as the first movie, the vet is seen attending his nephew’s wedding, where he shows off his dog bite wounds to the handheld camera. Unlike its predecessors, this Paco Plaza production doesn’t quickly establish a forboding mood. Instead, the movie jumps into the joyous occasion with laughter and a good deal of amusement. In fact, the filmmakers do quite a bit differently here compared to the previous two films. Namely, this is more of a horror comedy, with characters who do and say some weirdly funny stuff. The guy who dresses as a giant sponge in casual wear but explains that his name is John Sponge for legal reasons is one such hilarious scene.
The two prior movies have quickly gathered steam as sure-fire cult favorites, and this third installment (a fourth entry is currently in the works) is arguably the weakest thus far. Some viewers will be quick to point to the comedic tone as its biggest drawback, or the sudden shift from the found-footage style to a traditional third-person narrative when mayhem erupts.
However, it’s due to these very changes that I was pleasantly surprised by the film and enjoyed it immensely. Rather than repeat the same techniques and form, the filmmakers opted to make one big jumbled mix of excessive gore and humor that sees the newlyweds start their life together by shooting, hacking and dismembering relatives. The zombies are also a mix of runners, the infected and slow-walkers, which works well to generate suspense. The biggest laugh comes when the groom has to literally dress like a knight in shining armor and run to the rescue of his damsel in distress. However, make no mistake, this is the bride’s special day and zombies are not taking it away from her.