Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; home of the fried food advent calendar. As December marches on, here at JFC it’s beginning to look a lot like Type-II diabetes. We are back yet again to roast a particularly horrible cinematic chestnut on the open fire of relentless mockery as you struggle to keep the terrifying Jack Frost from trying to bite pieces of your face off; seriously, how scary is that song? But then, I will sugarcoat that same chestnut (plum? bag of mixed metaphors?) with genuine adoration until you are confronted with the unconquerable desire to take me off your Christmas card list and add me to the one enigmatically marked “People to Letter Bomb.” To make your season especially bright, in much the same fashion that nuclear blasts are quite luminous, I will then pair the film with a festively tasty, disgustingly decadent snack food item.
Today’s figgy pudding of shame: Elves.
What Makes It Bad?
What do we know about elves? Traditionally, these minuscule denizens of the North Pole have defined their entire existence laboring in Santa’s workshop; being bred into a bizarre form of indentured servitude. They suffer daily the oppressive whip of a bearded, rotund Über-capitalist with no outlet for their seething, but impotent rage. Like many of you, I have spent literally hours lying awake thinking about these beleaguered minions of the jolly old overlord, fearing the day that they would inevitably rise up and take their revenge upon the human race who refused to come to their aid. Enter 1989’s Elves…exit sanity.
In this film, elves are not cutesy, pointy-eared cherubs. Nor are these elves tall, silver-haired Adonises who know their way around a bow and arrow and cause very difficult-to-process urges in purportedly straight film bloggers who are totally not me. Point of fact this film does not feature elves at all, because that would imply some sort of multitude. Instead we have just one gaped-mouthed hand puppet who bears a horrifyingly striking resemblance to a shaved and genetically-altered chimpanzee. Part of me wants to laugh derisively at this cast of cardboard human likenesses in terrible attire, but part of me is genuinely moved by their plight of being chased hither and thither by half a wax stuffed animal attached to the lens of a camera to obscure both its diminutive size and lack of mobility. I also love that as the elf is following our heroine–or more accurately our named dishcloth–through the department store, not one person notices a bipedal naked mole rat saunter down the aisles or fleeing out of the store after it repeatedly crotch-stabs Santa Claus. And so begins running joke of this article: having to insert very few actual jokes because, believe it or else, most of these things happen exactly as I describe them.
The real “star” of the “movie” is Dan Haggerty, better known as Grizzly Adams; currently best known as “Who The Hell Is Grizzly Adams?” At one point in my life, I thought City of the Living Dead‘s/Day of the Animals‘ Christopher George was cinema’s most apathetic hero. I thought to myself, “gee self, I don’t think any actor could possibly put less effort into headlining a film if they tried…which they wouldn’t because they don’t care.” Dan Haggerty–and his lush, untamed face carpet–hath once again made fools of us all. Haggerty plays a former detective thrown off the force for his drinking, or so the painfully overstated exposition would have us believe…that we were too stupid to figure out ourselves. He cares so little about this film that the pendulum actually swings the other way to the point where he’s pissed off he has to do the movie and actively, though his inactivity, seeks to further derail it. He sleepwalks through each and every scene, mumbling his lines with learned incoherence, and–I shit you not–dangling a lit cigarette from his lips during even the most supposedly exciting scenes. It’s as if they were crafting an early, reverse version of Speed wherein if Haggerty gives more than one shit in any given scene, his gut will explode. It’s hard to believe this sack of man lumps is legitimately interested in saving the heroine when he can’t park his Camel Ultra Light for five minutes in order to stop the Nazis from shooting her.
Oh, did I mention there were Nazis in this film? Because there are totally Nazis in this film. I feel their storyline was a concerted effort to allow Elves to stand apart from all the other Dan Haggerty evil Christmas elf movies. So you remember how Raiders of the Lost Ark informed us that the Nazis were obsessed with the occult and using mystical and religious powers to take over the world? DOCUMENTARY BY COMPARISON TO ELVES. The Third Grade Reich described in this film decided that elves were the supreme power in the supernatural world and constructed two potential schemes for exploiting them. The first was to use elves as assassins because of their size, strength, and killing prowess. This carefully conceived plan was apparently thwarted when they ultimately realized there were no such things as elves. That is not a joke, a professor of “history” within the film tells us of this. So they wasted what I’m sure were years of research and millions of ill-gotten dollars only to discover imaginary things are imaginary, the Nazis sought to fulfill an ancient prophecy in which a pure blood virgin descendant would get boinked by an elf and give birth to a race of supermen…Elf+Pure Blood Virgin=SuperMEN? The thing is, this backup plan still relies heavily on the existence of imaginary elves! They make up some crap about an ancient rune that, along with the virgin’s blood, can conjure one elf who can then fill her with Elf/Superman babies. This movie is actually the story of how composer Danny Elfman was conceived.
What you would expect by this point is that our heroine, who lives with her mom and Nazi grandfather, is the pure blood virgin. It’s predicable, but operates within the measures of the film’s logic…until we find out why she’s the pure blood. Apparently, in a stunning twist befitting of Sir Jerry of Springer, her grandfather IS ALSO her father. He knocked up the girl’s mother, who is also his own daughter, in order to birth his grand-daughter daughter. If you aren’t feeling desperately in need of a shower right now, then you are filthy and desperately in need of a shower right now. It’s as if the screen”writer” decided that the one thing missing from this Christmas killer elf movie with Grizzly Adams and Nazis was incest. The elf therefore spends the rest of the movie killing everyone around Incest Baby Protagonist in order to hump Incest Baby Protagonist and bring about the end of the world. The writer of this film would himself later go on to…be exorcised out of the body of a poor, innocent girl he was possessing…in my mind.
Why I Love It?
I’m a sucker for bad Christmas horror. They are so deliciously mean-spirited in their marring and warping what is supposed to be an untouchable, joyous time of year. When a film like Elves goes the extra mile to mar and warp something that is marring and warping something good and pure, it’s an exponentially more bizarre experience. Elves is easily the worst Christmas horror film I’ve ever seen, it’s position however admittedly precarious given the existence of Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 and The Christmas Shoes. Watch The Christmas Shoes again and tell me I’m NOT supposed to be terrified. The only thing that could have possibly sullied the holiday more than seeing Santa get his pelvic stocking sliced up or an elf brandishing the carcass of a dead cat who was drowned in a toilet by an evil bitch (also actually happens) would be…cripes, I’ve got nothing. I can literally think of no comically outrageous image that would be worse than the verifiable content of this film. You cannot understand how to effectively quantify the boundaries of terrible cinema unless you constantly redefine for yourself where those boundaries are. In that way, and I must stress solely in that way, Elves is a pioneering film.
Elves is not available on DVD and it’s dubious that it was ever shown on movie screens besides those made of stone in the solitary confinement cells of certain mental asylums for the criminally insane. We therefore had to watch Elves on VHS which was then projected onto the screen at the Alamo Drafthouse in a room full of what can only be described as…former inmates of certain mental asylums for the criminally insane. This night exemplified everything I love about VHS. Without a lunatic-like refusal to abandon this obviously dead format, films like Elves would be lost to the ages and the breadth of its incompetence would go uncelebrated, unmocked, and unlaughed at. It is a film that demands to be seen with a room full of, hopefully, imbibing masochists who ultimately see their own lack of cinematic taste as a form of gluttony and seek to punish themselves for their mortal sin. Elves is basically ocular flagellation and we are all better people for having subjected ourselves to it.
Junkfood Pairing: E.L. Fudge
A few of Santa’s elves did manage to escape with the assistance of nefarious criminals known as “Cookie Coyotes,” who promised them freedom and a better life. But sadly they were sold into the Nabisco white slave trade wherein the laziest among them were killed, stacked, and then separated by a layer of delicious fudge. I would urge you not to support this debased practice…if the end result weren’t so damn tasty. Grab a bag of E.L. Fudge cookies, dust off the VCR, and fire up the movie that celebrates the true meaning of Christmas: Nazi incest.
Stop wondering what Spanish cookies have to do with Elves, and go read more Junkfood Cinema