Elvira's Haunted Hills (2002)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/28/02
Cast: Cassandra Peterson, Richard O'Brien, Scott Atkinson, Mary Jo Smith

Elvira takes to the big screen once again, fourteen years after the original "Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark" (1988). It's 1851 and Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) is on her way to Paris to perform in an adult revue. Along the way, she and her French maid Zou Zou (Mary Jo Smith) stumble across the creepy Hellsubus Castle in the Carpathian mountains, and are invited to stay the night. Unfortunately, the Hellsubus family (led by a wonderful Richard O'Brien) is cursed and Elvira is a dead ringer for Lord Hellsubus's dead wife. A spooky mystery of deceit and betrayal unfolds which leads Elvira to certain doom.

After the extremely entertaining "Mistress Of The Dark", I was a bit disappointed with this outing. While it's exceedingly clever, cleverness alone does not make it funny or entertaining, and Ms. Peterson seems to be trying way too hard to extract laughs from the audience. On the plus side, the look of the film is fabulous - especially if you're a fan of classic Roger Corman and Hammer horror films. The sets, costumes, and characters are a great homage to those classic works, and the film borrows liberally from "Pit And The Pendulum" (1961) and "House Of Usher" (1960). Unfortunately, a lot of this comes off as a in-joke and is taken for granted. The spirit of the film is fun, and it does feature some genuinely funny moments - just not enough of them. Elvira seems uncomfortably out of place in a period piece, and her crude schtick of shocking and unnerving the uptight townfolk just comes off as awkward and forced. But the story does allow for some tension and some interesting twists, so it's not all fun and games. Definitely a mixed bag, but Elvira fans will probably be pleased with this offering.