Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001)

Director: Sam Irvin

Starring: Cassandra Peterson, Richard O’Brien, Scott Atkinson

DR BRADLEY – “The village people say this castle is evil.”
ELVIRA – “Meh, who listens to the Village People any more?”

If you’re not familiar with Cassandra Peterson, she’s a comedy actress most famous for her alter-ago, the campy vampire Elvira. Elvira used to introduce old horror films on TV back in the 1980s and her cheesy jokes and – let’s face it – enormous chest made her a cult favourite among horror fans. In 1988 Peterson wrote and starred in a horror comedy called Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark, a film that’s since become the guilty pleasure of many a hardened horror nut. A sequel was planned, but after many years being screwed over by various studios she finally decided to go indie and make the film herself. The result thirteen years later was Elvira’s Haunted Hills.

Elvira's answer to an 1800s jacuzzi - getting your maid to blow bubbles into your bath

Set in 1851, Haunted Hills sees Elvira travelling through Europe to perform a show in Paris but finding herself lost in Romania in the process. After hitching a ride with a creepy-looking coach Elvira meets Dr Bradley, a posh-sounding Englishman who offers to take her to a castle to stay for the night. What he neglects to tell her is that the castle is owned by Lord Hellsubus (Richard O’Brien), a rich maniac who lost his wife many years ago and never recovered. Oh, and his wife haunts the mansion and looks just like Elvira. Cue the antics!

Richard O'Brien tries to explain the Crystal Maze format to a confused Elvira

Make no bones about it, this horror-comedy has much more of the latter and hardly any of the former, but that was always its intention. It’s a spoof of the various Roger Corman and Hammer movies of the 70s and 80s set in the same time period, with nods to The House Of Usher and The Pit And The Pendulum throughout (though you don’t need to have seen those films to ‘get’ it).

Haunted Hills packs an impressive number of jokes in its 90-minute running time, and while some of them are fairly cringeworthy (comedy ‘boink’ sound effects and sped-up scenes will never be funny, and the numerous long screaming scenes are intensely irritating) there are a decent number of jokes that hit the mark, mainly those from Elvira herself.

"I agree the painting's shit but setting fire to it seems a wee bit severe"

Indeed, it’s little wonder Elvira is the star of the show, because she’s the only truly entertaining character in the film. Her down-to-earth nature and modern, dry sense of humour provides a funny juxtaposition with the 1851 setting and she still seems young and full of life despite being over 50 when the movie was filmed.

If you want to see what the big deal is with Elvira then Elvira’s Haunted Hills is a decent way to find out. It’s by no means a great film but her performance shines through and turns a potentially humour-free mess into a chuckle-filled cheesefest.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?
If you’re a UK subscriber to LoveFilm then you can stream Elvira’s Haunted Hills for free as part of your package. Otherwise, you can buy the region 2 DVD by clicking here. American Elviraphiles can buy the region 1 DVD by clicking here.

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