Starring: Deanna Grace Congo, Lisa May, Amy Jo Guthrie, Stephanie Marie Baggett
Directed and Written by: Jamaal Burden
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles
Acting will not be in attendance this Christmas because of the lackluster post-production dubbing of nearly every actor, but is Elves still creepy/campy fun? This is one of the most efficient horror films I’ve seen in awhile. Minutes in and we’ve had a creative kill, special effects, and a premise established. It’s as if the genre savvy filmmakers were aware that establishing too much backstory for glorified bodycount characters is just busywork until the action and mystery starts.
The concept is nothing new, bordering on plagiarism in some junctures, but the holiday twist adds a little spice. A group of…’friends’ seems like the wrong word…are inducted into a death game called Naughty List revolving around creepy elf dolls with instructions that keep appearing to those who participate. Follow the demands or die. Simple and effective as a horror premise goes even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and thankfully the film doesn’t really dwell too much on the ridiculous lore.
Drawing heavily from the movie Truth or Dare in both conceptualization and the patented CGI sneer the possessed acquire, Elves is actually self-aware enough to admit by name what it’s emulating. And Truth of Dare wasn’t exactly Oscar material to begin with so a cheap answer to an already cheap film is a lateral move, and the addition of demonic elves and oddly karmic tasks is much more interesting that simple truth or dare situations. At times Elves seems to relish its own goofiness and B-Movie nature but it does so without breaking character.
I can appreciate a film that realizes its own limitations and influences but doesn’t wink too heavily at the camera. It spoils the fun when an ostensibly goofy film gives up and makes fun of itself but at least Elves gives an indication that the cast and crew were not delusional and even having fun. Elves isn’t destained to be a classic but for what it is there are effective moments (the monotone voices constantly muttering the same demands over and over are surprisingly disturbing and there’s some nice minimalistic use of Christmas tree lights) and you get the sense this was made by a bunch of friends.
It’s an objectively lower tier film due to poor sound design, wonky performance, unconvincing special effects and a convoluted and largely nonsensical plot, but there’s some heart here to see. Elves: it’s cheesy, goofy, shaky, but it’s got enough charm to carry through, and not every horror film can make that claim.
Anti-Hero The Motion Comic Series
Episode 1 (Watch for Free!) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmmouuBlWTk&t=49s