Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)

For years, horror movie hostess Elvira has dreamed of performing in Vegas. Just when things start looking bleak, she's informed of an inheritance left to her by a mysterious aunt. Her presence in the woman's conservative hometown shakes up the locals, who try to ward her off. Like Mario and King Kong, Elvira is an iconic character that will never be forgotten. From the days she started hosting horror movies to her show at Knotts Berry Farm and beyond, she has come a long way. The brainchild of Cassandra Peterson, she and Halloween have become synonymous.

Taking characters from television to the big screen doesn't happen too often. There has to be a good reason to make the transition. Both Ernest P. Worrell and Pee-Wee Herman already had feature film adventures by the end of the 80s. As with those characters, there appeared to be enough going on with Elvira to go in the same direction. It didn't fare too well at the Box Office or with critics, but it was a big hit with the fans. It's obvious from frame one that it was a passion project and hasn't lost it's spark.

Not surprisingly, Cassandra Peterson gives her all in her performance as her alter ego. The fact she was nominated for a Razzie is just laughable. The rest of the cast is filled with some familiar faces and talented new comers, all of which do a great job. This was the second directing gig for SNL producer James Signorelli. The good news is that he was up to the task and handles all the elements beautifully. The film mixes humor and horror and he does fine at both.

It's no secret that Elvira's primary trademark is her bustline. Many of the gags are about this and all are hilarious. In fact, pretty much all the sight and verbal humor hit a bulls eye. The film also pokes fun and pays tribute to great b horror movies. The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes screening sequence is particularly amusing and fun. Since this is a comedy/horror film though, things are all warm and fuzzy.

This isn't a big effects show, but what there is is all quite good. The make-up on William Morgan Shepherd for the finale is pretty creepy. Also the production design for the old house is nicely done, creating a nice eerie mood. What gets done to it to be put up for sale should put a smile on your face. You can just tell from all this that the filmmakers used the $7,500,000 budget wisely.

There's really not much in the film we haven't seen before in others. The story is one that's been told before, but here it's still told well. And though in a lot of ways the film does hold up, it's still pretty dated. The Flashdance homage, some of the hairstyles and references to things of the time age it some. Despite this though, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is 90+ minutes of pure entertainment and yuks. The Vegas show at the end is worth the price of admission alone.


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