While video companies continue to scrap and scrape to find genre titles suitable for feature-packed special editions that leave fan boys eager to open their wallets (Really? DISTURBING BEHAVIOR?), lovers of holiday horror and sick sinema alike wait patiently for somebody to get off their asses and give 1989's ELVES the video release it so truly deserves.
I'm an admitted Danny-come-lately as far as ELVES is concerned. At one point dismissive because I assumed it was some sort of cut-rate kids flick, I finally settled in one night when the Krampus outing I was intent upon watching wouldn't load off my thumb drive. "Damn you, Krampus!," I bellowed in my Suburban Chamber of Horrors, only to thank Santa's surly holiday pal after I picked my jaw up off the floor about 90 minutes later.
A trio of ditzy girls get things rolling when their "Sisters of Anti-Christmas" ceremony goes horribly wrong and unleashes an elf from the forest floor. Chicks. And, yes, despite a title that suggests more than one elf creating holiday chaos, ELVES appears to feature a singular – albeit supremely sinister – creature. Unfortunately, I say "appears to feature" because the VHS print that I got my hands on is so dark and occasionally indecipherable that I had to verify the fact with outside sources (like ER contributor Mitch Lovell who writes about his love for the flick here).
Ceremony botched, Kirsten (Julie Austin) returns to her horrible home life which features a wheelchair-bound grandfather (Borah Silver) who hordes creepy tomes and slaps her around, a pervy younger brother ("I'm not a pervert... I like seeing naked girls!") and an uber-bitch of a Mom (LAND OF THE GIANTS star Deanna Lund) who drains Kirsten's savings account and – in an especially wicked moment – drowns her cat in the toilet!
As if that's not bad enough, Kirsten's workplace isn't much better as the department store Santa solicits oral from her but gets his when the elf stabs the faux Kris Kringle while he's in the midst of doing some blow.
If the flick amounted to little more than this set-up and 45 minutes of Elf Cam as the merry marauder slashed his way through the Naughty List, ELVES would still get a Holiday Horrors recommendation from yours truly. But once you insert chain smoking ex-cop turned store detective turned Store Santa Mike McGavin (Dan Haggerty, TV's 'Grizzly Adams' who is still alive despite smoking 18 cartons of cigarettes during ELVES), writer/director Jeffrey Mandel elevates the proceedings to another level, packing the remainder of the flick with enough offbeat ideas and far out revelations to push ELVES onto the short list of Must Watch Holiday Horrors populated by the likes of CHRISTMAS EVIL, DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (original recipe).
So, Severin, Scream Factory, Vinegar Syndrome... if you're out there reading this, give genre fans a reel gift and bring us ELVES for Christmas one of these years! You'll forever be on my Nice List. – Dan Taylor
Dan Taylor is the editor of Exploitation Retrospect and loves Christmas, whether it's sweet or sinister. Watch for details about our upcoming issue and follow ER on Facebook and Twitter for news, notes and the latest reviews.
ELVES is a rare find on VHS so you'll pay a pretty penny for it on the secondary market. But you can bypass all that and just watch the same print in all its glory on YouTube (see below).