Friday, December 11, 2015


Well, it just stands to reason that Grizzly Adams would eventually star in a Christmas horror movie as a homeless Santa Claus fighting a Nazi elf. That’s right: elf. Despite the title, the cheapo producers of this Action International Pictures release didn’t hand out enough dough to make a bunch of elf puppets or body suits or animatronics, so we’re left to scream in terror at one frozen-faced elf doll. And though we’re treated to the sight of a stiff elf hand cutting the nads off a pervy, cokehead department-store Santa, ELVES still manages to be inept, joyless, and sadly lacking even a pinch of cinematic frankincense and myrrh.

Teenage Kirsten (Julie Austin) is as meanspirited as this movie, the kind of girl who wastes her break at her crummy waitressing job so she and her friends can “goof on Santa.” It’s hard to blame her for being unlikable, considering she’s trapped at home with a kid brother who spies on her showers, a mother (Deanna Lund) who drowns the family cat in the toilet, and a grandfather (Borah Silver) who is a Nazi. We’ll get to that soon enough.

Kirsten and her equally Christmas-hating friends throw a seance in the woods and — unbeknownst to the trio — unleash an elf from the grave. It follows Kirsten to work, where it slices up the afore-mentioned cokehead Santa, the first of the film’s bloody but inertly staged murders. Director Jeff Mandel (ROBO-C.H.I.C.) is no director, and his ridiculous-looking elf is no scary monster.

So, yeah, Grandfather is a Nazi, but he’s even worse than that (if that’s possible). He’s not just Kirsten’s grandfather, but also her father. He raped his daughter (Lund) when she was 16 and made her pregnant. During World War II, he and his colleagues genetically engineered the elf to breed with the virginal Kirsten 30 years later on Christmas Eve and create the Anti-Christ. That’s how I read it, though I can’t be to blame for Mandel’s incoherent screenplay and direction.

Back to Grizzly Adams aka star Dan Haggerty. He plays Mike McGavin, a homeless alcoholic ex-cop who wanders around with a carton of Camels in his coat pocket and takes over as the store Santa. Haggerty is charming enough that you believe he could have killed in this part if he wanted to, but he seems to be more focused on making sure his Camel stays lit than in emoting.

McGavin gets involved when, while sacking out in the rear of the store, he overhears Kirsten and her friends frolicking after hours, trying on lingerie while waiting on some boys to arrive. Instead of their dates, a couple of Nazis break in to collect Kirsten, leading to the world’s dullest after-hours gun battle.

Mandel’s incompetence goes beyond the inept special effects, incoherent plotting, and lackluster performances. Even the movie’s lone nude scene fails to adequately hide the face of Deanna Lund’s body double. Perhaps Mandel thought nobody would be looking at her face anyway (three years later, the fiftysomething Lund had no qualms popping her top for director Gary Graver’s tawdry thriller ROOTS OF EVIL).

The only thing in ELVES’ favor, aside from Haggerty, I suppose, is that it’s crazy, which means it’s unpredictable. The story makes no sense, so it’s impossible to guess where it’s going. I know “merging the virginal child/grandchild with a Nazi elf to impregnate her with the seed of a master race” wasn’t on my radar. So, crazy, yes, but also stupid, confusing, laughable, and — somehow — boring.

1 comment:

Felicity Walker said...

I have this movie on VHS. Your review sums it up perfectly. I agree that the best thing about it is Haggerty, with his low-key, depressed, chain-smoking performance.