To those in the goth community, Elvira — a.k.a. Cassandra Petersen — is a living legend as a not just a TV horror film host, but also as a singular personality. (Unfortunately, her predecessor Maila Nurmi was not a fan.) A lot of folks believe being goth is all doom and gloom and feeling sad for themselves and the world and, while that’s part of the subculture, there’s a lot of whimsy and a fuckton of self-awareness and comfort with one’s body and sexuality.
In other words: Elvira knows who she is, what she wants, she doesn’t feel the need to filter herself and, as a result, she’s completely content with being brazen and someone who unapologetically revels in the darker facets of humanity, while also leaning into her love for vaudeville humor.
“Oh, fragility. Thy name is woman.”
While you might think that ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS is a sequel to her cult film ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK, it most certainly is not. It takes place in 1851 and riffs on a lot of traditional gothic works — there’s a lot of DRACULA here — but more than anything it’s a love letter to Roger Corman’s very loosely adapted films based on Edgar Allen Poe stories.
“Captain Teodore Hellsubus Vladimere’s grandfather. Smuggler, slave trader, pathological liar, bad dancer, cross-dresser.”
“That’s really weird. Cross-dressers are usually great dancers.”
(I’ll note that Lord Vladimere Hellsubus is portrayed by the one and only Richard O’Brien, best known for THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW’s Riff Raff.)
During the sixties, Corman warped a number of Poe works into films, including his version of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE RAVEN, and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, all of which ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS riffs on, even down to mimicking the production design of Corman’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.
While ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS leans quite a bit on Corman’s works, it’s still singularly hers. It’s brazenly cartoonish, and she’s certainly the star. From her making the most of her cleavage to also being the smartest and funniest person in the room, she’s also not even close to shy. This is best exemplified by her repeated attempts to woo Adrian, Gabi Andronache recreating a vapid Fabio, all shoulder-length brunette curls and buff chest.
“Adrian! You came too late! …again.”
Additionally, she gets her own CABARET-esque musical number which ends with her brandishing underwear that literally begs for applause.
Even if you aren’t part of the goth community, this is one hell of a lark, one that is very self-aware and doesn’t take itself seriously but is also very smart and knowing. I do wish she’d been able to turn out yearly films because she’s so fun and charismatic while also being an absolute misfit and we need more of that in the world. However, I’m thankful we can watch the few films that she willed into the world.