Elves (1989)

They're not working for Santa... anymore.

Year of Release: 1989
Genre: Horror
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 89 minutes (1:29)
Director: Jeffrey Mandel


Julie Austin ... Kirsten
Dan Haggerty ... Mike McGavin
Deanna Lund ... Kirsten's Mother
Borah Silver ... Kirsten's Grandfather
Mansell Rivers-Bland ... Rubinkreuz
Christopher Graham ... Willy
Laura Lichstein ... Brooke
Stacey Dye ... Amy


An innocent romp in the woods turns into a hellish nightmare when three young girls accidentally awaken an army of evil "elves" - genetically created by a Neo-Nazi mad scientist during World War II.

These hideous creatures don't work for Santa... they have a special mission: to mate with a virgin and take over the world as a pint-sized master race!


Elves, remindin' us that the time and place may change, but the birth of a "master race" still relies heavily upon inbreeding.

An speakin' of things that slither into this world from the depths of madness, there prolly hasn't been a single day in my life where I ain't thought to myself: "man'm I glad I never had kids," but I ain't never been more grateful for that fact than last night at Hammer Time Hardware. I was there for the big 25% off Christmas Eve sale with all the other procrastinators, do-it-yerselfers, an retired people with nothin' better to do, pickin' up some heat tape for my pipes an a rawhide chew for Apollo's stockin' - an lemme tell ya, what went down in front of Santa's Workshop was so brutal it woulda made the Grinch cringe. Now, I'd like to say right now that I was WAY over in the Lawn & Garden section arrangin' gnomes into sexually suggestive poses in the moments leadin' up to the incident an that I can prove this cause Silas Tankersley was up in my business rantin' about how wasteful I was for still usin' incandescent light bulbs like a savage. Actually that's what first tipped me off that somethin' might be wrong, cause without warnin' Silas went silent an just stood there stock still at the end of the aisle watchin' the line of people waitin' to get their kids' picture taken with Santa Claus.

"That's gonna be trouble," was all he said after endin' his crusade against inefficient illumination, an so I poked my head out from behind the wheel barrow display to see what had 'im so rattled an noticed Bambi Pan... err... Bambi Mastrude, an 'er trio of pre-teen terrors up at the front of the line.

"Oh come on Silas, she prolly just wants a nice picture to remember 'em by when they're all in juvie," I suggested.

"You do whatchu want son, but I'm gettin' outta here while the gettin's good," he declared before payin' for a half dozen dead bolts an a 20lb bin of Decon an hustlin' his way to the door.

I can't really explain it, but the Tankersleys have this sixth sense about things, so I figured I'd head on over an ask the head elf if anything weird was goin' on, when I hear: "Oh what the FUCK?! The old guy's gettin' a boner!" from Rowdy Pankins who was sittin' on Santa's lap at the time.

"Get away from him you sick old bastard!" his brother Harley yelled before clotheslinin' Santa, chair an all, into a massive pile of prop gifts where he an Rowdy proceeded to do the Riverdance all over Santa's gut bucket.

At this point I feel like I oughta stop a minute an explain what happened here before people get the wrong idea - see, Asa Morton, the guy who owns the place, hired Irv "the perv" Knox to don the big red suit, an while I have no doubt that Irv's ho ho hose prolly uncoiled at a *real* bad time like one of them black snake fireworks, I'll guarantee it had more to do with Bambi's snow globes poppin' out of 'er "Sexy Claus" suit. I'm not gonna describe the ensemble in detail cause I know a lotta folks prolly just packed away a several pounds of processed farm animal, but to give ya an idea of what we're talkin' about here - the belt on this thing had a little strip of mistletoe hangin' down over the crotch. Needless to say, *I* caught on to what'd happened pretty quick, but apparently nobody else had, an the crowd seemed pretty content to let the two kids (Norman, the third brother'd run off somewhere an was still M.I.A. at the time) lay down the Garvin Stomp all over Irv, so of course I hadda wade into the situation an try gainin' some semblance of control.

"Get offa him you miserable little Krampi!" I screamed, tryin' to get 'em secured in twin headlocks.

"Let us go, jackass! Santa's gotten his jollies offa me for the last time!" snarled Rowdy between attempts to chew my arm off.

"Yeah, stay outta this old man! The creep's a pedo..." Harley grunted before forcin' me to temporarily pinch off his windpipe.

"Listen up Satan's little helpers - I ain't disputin' he's a creep, but the man is NOT a pedophile, alright?" I explained after rammin' the tops of their heads together. "Now I know this's a little weird, but try to follow me here: imagine for a second that your mama is *not* your mama, that her merchandise is spillin' over the top of 'er blouse, like it is right now, an that you're a pathetic 55-year-old man whose best chance of gettin' laid is on visitin' day at the senior center."

Bambi was more'n a little P.O.'d about the case I'd laid out but finally grabbed 'er boys by the ears an shrieked: "you two apologize to Santa this instant or you're not gettin' any peppermint schnapps when we get home!"

"We're sorry..." they mumbled in unison.

"No... harm done..." Irv wheezed, clutchin' his rib cage as he propped his chair back up an flopped down, gaspin' for breath.

"Good, now where's your brother? Mama needs to get home before The Bachelorette start..." but that's all she got out before Norman emerged from Hand Tools with a crowbar, squealin' like Xena: Warrior Princess, an cracked Irv's skull like an Old Milwaukee Tall Boy after a 12-hour shift right in front of Tucker Washburn an his 26 kids who broke out into a chorus of hysterical wailing as they watched Santa get carted out on a stretcher. I imagine Norman's prolly goin' away for awhile after that little stunt since he was already on probation for forcin' Bertram Winfield to eat wood chips on the playground last year. I kinda feel bad for Bambi, cause I imagine on some level she loves the little monsters, but sooner or later we all gotta learn that you can't just go around beatin' the brains outta old fat guys, so maybe in the long run this'll turn out to be a positive experience for everyone. Cept for Irv, I mean; Irv's prolly a potato by now if he didn't get flown to a hospital where the waitin' room table ain't covered in back issues of Dirt Bike Monthly.

Man alive, that was hard to sit through - Tucker's kids all standin' there blubberin' with their snotty little Niagara Falls noses like that, just sure Bambi's midget maniac'd killed Santa Claus with a pry bar. I needed to get my mind offa that insanity an fast, so I drove home, gave Apollo his rawhide, rescued Shankles from the tangled ball of Christmas lights he'd gotten bound up in while I was out, an stuffed Elves in the VCR. I been savin' this one for a special occasion cause, as mosta you turkeys already know, Elves is basically the Plan 9 from Outer Space of Christmas flicks. You ain't *never* gonna see another movie like this one folks, I promise ya that. An since this's the season of givin', I'ma share just a few of the sentiments you're likely to experience as you sit through Jeffrey Mandel's holiday masterpiece. First, listening to your dad tell Grizzly Adams about the connection between elves and Nazis at Christmas dinner is still easier to digest than Aunt Ethel's okra casserole. Second, the statute of limitations on a boy's fascination with his older sister's rack seem to expire around age 12. After that you'd better be in either therapy, or the Bible Belt. An third, you can't piss on Dan Haggerty, I won't allow it!

The movie begins out in the woods where these three broads (Kirsten, Amy, an Brooke) who've been workin' retail too long get together to denounce Christmas commercialism an rail against Walmart, only Kirsten ends up cuttin' 'er hand on a piece of glass an bleedin' all over the ground til it starts bubblin' up an smokin' like James Hetfield after a pyrotechnics malfunction an next thing ya know this gnarly little paw reaches up outta the dirt. Course the Commienist sympathizers've already gone home by the time that happens, an pretty quick Kirsten's crippled old grampa who talks like Colonel Klink after a stroke catches 'er sneakin' in an starts slappin' 'er around for farfegnugenin' around in the woods, while the creepy little whatever-it-is roams around with this blurry Dean Martin vision that makes ya feel like throwin' up. Then Kirsten's pervo little brother (Willy) starts spyin' on 'er in the shower an threatenin' to describe 'er dairy equipment in detail to all his little punk friends if she don't take his leering with good humor til they end up wrestlin' on the girl's bed... cause that's gonna help 'im break his unhealthy fixation. After that everybody hits the sack, cept in the meantime this nasty little goobie monster that looks like somebody squirted Rogaine all over Dobby the House Elf sneaks into Willy's room an scares the tar out of 'im but nobody'll believe 'im when he claims a "fucking little ninja troll" was in his room. The next mornin' Kirsten goes to 'er waitressin' gig an tries paintin' the mall Santa as Capitalism's chief executive pimp, but after awhile he turns creepo an starts gropin' 'er boughs of holly til she gets P.O.'d an decks his halls. Then Santa goes into his workshop to steady his nerves with some cocaine, only he ends up bumpin' his mirror an havin' to try shovelin' the snow up off the floor til the gooey little hobDobby sneaks up on 'im with a Ginsu knife an opens up his package. While this's goin' on, Kirsten's psycho wehrmacht mama's at home drownin' Kirsten's cat in the toilet cause she thinks it was up on Willy's chest the night before tryin' to suffocate 'im, an when Kirsten goes to bed she ends up wakin' up in the middle of the night to the midget Jeff Sessions mashin' the cat's face up against 'er bedroom window.

Elsewhere, Dan Haggerty's down on his luck - evicted from his Airstream, supportin' a carton a day cigarette habit, an denied every job he's applied for save the Chief of Staff position at the White House, when fortune finally shines on 'im the next day an he's given a shot at the replacement mall Santa gig. Then some Nazis stop by to see Gramps an tell 'im that everything is in place an that Hornythorn Gump should be by anytime to get his hump on with Kirsten so they can finally have that master race they've always wanted an that if he don't like it he can take it up with Richard Spencer. Unfortunately Kirsten ain't gonna be able to make that date cause she's sneakin' into the mall after hours to party with 'er friends an she an Dan end up havin' to pinky swear not to snitch on each other since he's secretly crashin' rent-free back in Santa's magical storage warehouse. The girls' boyfriends're supposed to drop by an stuff their stockings, but that plan goes south when the Nazis show up an totally ruin the lingerie exhibition an start killin' everybody who don't pronounce their "w's" as "v's." Fortunately Dan's able to find Kirsten hidin' in Peckinpaw's Sportin' Goods an starts makin' like Dirty Harry with store property til the Nazis lay down some serious scheisse in their lederhosen an decide to get their hineys outta there while Slaygolas slices Brooke into chick-fillets. As you can imagine the store manager's royally hacked off since now everybody but the goth kids from the Hot Topic're gonna be too traumatized to shop there an he ends up cannin' the survivors. Dan really couldn't give a diddly about endin' every day smellin' like a diaper ever since glimpsin' Herpey the Misfit Elf durin' the shootout, an he goes to see these two sissy historians to ask 'em for information about the occult trolls he read about in some book by Elrond Hubbard til they explain that the Nazis were rumored to be obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons an wanted to create a race of super beins they could use to stick it to the Allies before they got squeezed like a genocidal zit between the Americans an the Rooskies. Elsewhere, Gramps wants to get the heck outta Dodge before the Nazis come back lookin' for Kirsten, but things get complicated when Kirsten's mama spills the sauerkraut an tells 'er Gramps ain't just 'er grampa but also 'er dad an that she's about 20 years behind on father's day cards.

Gramps insists that what he did he did for the Fatherland und der Fuhrer an that it was the only way to create the ideal babe for the elf an how he's not some kinda freak, but despite his sincere plea for understanding Kirsten still gets this look on 'er face like she just took a big pull off somebody's snuff bottle. Meanwhile, Dan's cruisin' towards Kirsten's place in Uncle Buck's car to warn 'er about the dangers of sirin' a race of super-human Jim Hensen puppets, cept when he reaches up under the steerin' wheel for his pack of emergency smokes he finds this bundle of Fisher Price brand plastic explosives an hasta bail outta the car before he gets turned into a deep fried pork shoulder. Dan's P.O.'d, an when he spots the Nazi car bomber investigatin' the scene of the crash he pounds the guy's face into Hamburg Helper til the guy starts burpin' up Alka Seltzer cold medicine an twitchin' like a hotwired frog in Biology class. Back at the house mom's gone pretty well insane in the membrane an decides to hop in the bathtub an crank Beethoven's Ode to Joy on the Classical station to symbolically complete her application to the Laughing Academy, cept before the guys in the white coats show up the little Dark Crystal reject pops up an pitches the radio into the tub, proving once an for all that the trend of video killin' the radio star can be reversed under the right circumstances. Fortunately the grody little booger was an Elf an not an Alf, cause I seem to remember Alf gettin' censored offa TV when he pulled that same stunt. Anyway, about that time Dan finally finishes hackin' up a pint of black lung goo onto the front lawn an makes his way inside to save Kirsten, but first Gramps hasta come clean about buggerin' the She Waif of the SS an try explainin' that he's over that whole master race pipe dream an how Dan's gotta get Kirsten outta there before Rumpelforeskin turns up an shows Kirsten where the Keebler nookies come from. You follow all that? Probably not, but either way this's where I draw the line an can the chatter, so if you wanna find out if Dan Haggerty dies for our sins you'll just hafta pick up a copy... if you can find one.

Ooooooooookay, so, in short - Jeffrey Mandel is a lunatic with a very low opinion of women and an even lower opinion of the written word, and unfortunately this comes through a little too clearly to grant Elves the cult status it might otherwise deserve if the guy weren't writing lines like: "I'd rather just go with it than get in a confrontation, it's easier," concerning unwanted sexual advances. It's pretty dang tough to hear a line like that and not think maybe this guy's projecting just a teensy weensy bit; kinda like he's been called out by the umpire while rounding first base one time too many and never quite gotten over it. Although credit where credit's due - the "it was a fucking little ninja troll!" line from the 12-year-old brother is pretty goddamned funny. In general the whole movie's just a little too sleazy and mean-spirited to enjoy in its entirety and feels like the guy was just throwing every controversial subject he could at the audience to appear edgy. It's not enough to be a Nazi-sploitation flick, gotta sprinkle in incest and gratuitous animal cruelty too, right? That'll show everybody who called ya a "pussy" in high school. If the writer/director were more talented you could almost look at this thing as being way ahead of its time as a self-parodying, over-the-top assault on one's senses, but there's absolutely no mistaking the flick as a 95% serious attempt at Horror that falls flat on its face. I'm sure there're folks who feel the film's attempt and subsequent failure at grittiness just adds to the ineptitude and makes it even funnier, but personally I find that kind of thing pathetic to the point that it ruins much of the otherwise potent "so bad it's good" energy. The movie still has its moments of course, like the scene where Dan Haggerty interrupts a family's Christmas Eve meal to demand information about the connection between elves and Nazis - the absurdity of that situation is as funny as any bad scene that's ever been written, but it seems that for every one of those sequences you've got a crazy woman drownin' a cat in a toilet - acting as a proverbial deadman's switch in case the audience starts to enjoy the flick for the "wrong" reasons. Too bad really, because with a concept like this the movie should be an all-time classic of bad cinema; instead, the "laugh at me and I'll kill this puppy" routine sucks a lot of the fun out of it.

In any event, it's time to take the elf down off the shelf and see what kinda dirt he's dug up on this troubled production, so let's get to it. The plot is one of the most absurd ever put to film, so much so that if you didn't know any better you'd hafta assume it's a joke and that the film was made by Troma. Mythological super-soldiers created by the Nazis with the express purpose of handin' Uncle Sam his ass in WWII - brilliant if you're making a Horror/Comedy, not so much when you're playin' it straight. Factor in the incest and the brother/sister duo playfully wrestling 30 seconds after the boy's been caught peekin' at her in the shower and the gratuitous cat in the toilet scene and Jaws: The Revenge starts lookin' like a misunderstood classic. I won't bother goin' into the pacing problems where we're constantly moving from scene to scene without even the briefest of breaks to let the story (such as it is) develop, or allow the audience to absorb any of the insanity that's been thrown at it, cause let's face it: that'd be pissing on the ashes. I did like the one intentionally funny gag where Dan Haggerty does a double-take as he spots the mounted Grizzly bear in the sporting goods store, that was pretty cute. The acting's not as bad as you'd expect, but then you'd probably expect it to be totally abysmal when it's merely piss-poor. Haggerty just wasn't cut out for this kinda role even before you factor in dialogue that couldn't be made cool by Arnold the Barbarian or Sly Stallone, and Borah Silver's German accent is right up there with Corey Feldman's as one of the lousiest ethnic impressions in the history of B cinema. The women's performances don't fare much better, although with lines like: "That's so false! I mean, that's the money you saved to go to art school!" what can you reasonably expect? Everybody in this flick has the personality of lawn furniture and consequently you couldn't give a damn about them, but it'd be crime to end this section without mentioning everyone's favorite dramatic exchange, so lemme just do that and we'll move on:

Willy: Is everything alright?

Kirsten: No, Willy, Gramps is a Nazi.

Here's who matters and why: Dan Haggerty (Abducted 1 & 2, Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan, The Channeler, The Inheritor, Mind Trap, The Chilling, Night Wars, Terror Night, Terror Out of the Sky, Hex), Deanna Lund (Transylvania Twist, Superstition 2, Dimension 5, Sting of Death), Borah Silver (Escape from New York), Winter Monk (Alien Seed), Jeff Austin (Cyber-C.H.I.C., Auto Shop of Horrors), Ken Carpenter (Hellraiser III, Blood Games, Phantom of the Paradise, Tammy and the T-Rex), Michael Herst (Strangeland), D.L. Walker (Ground Zero, Magellan, Alienate, Mind Trap), Douglas K. Grimm (Cyber-C.H.I.C., Alien Seed), Kamey Pignotti (Alien Seed), Jodi Blunt (Alien Seed), Heidi Marrow (Cyber-C.H.I.C., Alien Seed). Dan Haggerty, of course, will always be best known for his role as good-natured mountain man Grizzly Adams, and a few of ya might remember Deanna Lund as Valerie Scott on Land of the Giants, but shockingly that's about it for cast members with even a hint of mainstream appeal.

The special effects, at least in my opinion, aren't as bad as most people claim, although saying the elf looks better than the critters in Hobgoblins isn't going to get the crew any closer to a special effects Oscar. From what I could surmise it looked like they had three different elf models; sculpture, animatronic, and a standard hand puppet - all three look like garbage when the puppeteer is trying to make it walk, but some scenes with the hand puppet aren't too bad, and the animatronic guy looks okay from time to time as well. Admittedly, it's that extremely stiff sculpture everyone remembers, and it's every bit as terrible as people say, but in all fairness there's more to the creature than that one incarnation. Other than the elf there's just a little cut and some blood, which are okay. The shooting locations are alright, with principal photography taking place in Colorado Springs - problem is, either the area doesn't get much snow, or they chose not to film during the winter months, and the lack of winter wonderland really shits the bed for a flick set on Christmas Eve. The wooded area used in the opening and closing sequences is okay, though it's a bit bare and has the look of a location set up for, and frequented by, campers. Beyond that, there're a coupla residences (okay), the library (actually the Carnegie Library in Colorado Springs, so it's excellent), and the department store, which is definitely my favorite. Not as good as the stores used in flicks like Chopping Mall, or Hide and go Shriek, but pretty good nonetheless. The soundtrack is really, really dull, inspires no excitement, and fails to build anything resembling suspense or intrigue. It's generic, repetitive, and most of the time doesn't really match up well with the events over which it plays. Granted, the scene where the mother listens to Beethoven's Ode to Joy in the tub immediately after telling her daughter that she's the product of incest is ridiculous enough to elicit a chuckle, and the track that plays during the climax has its moments, but in general it's very uninspiring. To say it damages the movie would be nonsense because that'd be impossible, but it certainly doesn't do much to help lift it up. Overall, Elves is an unmitigated disaster on a technical level, and unfortunately features some fairly unpleasant subject matter (I keep coming back to the cat scene every time I try convincing myself I'm being too hard on it) that negates much of the feel-good amusement generated by its otherwise hilariously botched execution. Still, you're never gonna see another flick quite like Elves, so if you feel like you can get past that, give it a shot; it may just become a holiday staple in your house.

Rating: 38%