2016 has been a proverbial shit show. Cherished celebrities left the mortal plane, 14,000 people voted for a dead gorilla for President of the United States, mass shootings are on the unfortunate up rise, and horrible bigots are finding empowerment and growing stronger than they have in decades. More than ever, people are looking to movies to take them away from this horrible reality and absolute trash fire of a year.
As the year comes to a close and winter holidays start their stranglehold on our free time, many people are loading up on Hallmark style holiday fare. It’s normal to try and avoid the horrors of reality by instead pretending the world is just a Made for TV movie about a couple that hates Christmas and needs the help of a Christmas elf to show them the true meaning of Christmas is love…but I think the best way to get over your problems is to tackle them head on. Was 2016 a shit year for you too? Then the only way to remedy the situation is by having a heaping helping of 1989’s ELVES.
The story of ELVES is simple, really. Three high school girls that call themselves the Sisters of Anti-Christmas (despite never calling themselves this ever again for the rest of the film) bring a drawing of a topless woman with some lines on her boobs into the woods to perform a ritual. Our main feathered vixen, Kirsten, cuts her hand open and the blood unleashes an evil Elf creature from the ground hell-bent on getting to Kirsten by any means necessary.
Kirsten comes home to her German, wheelchair-bound grandfather, her demented Morgan Fairchild wannabe mother, and her incredibly perverted little brother. Seriously, the kid can’t be more than 9-years-old and he screams “You’ve got big fuckin’ tits and I’m gonna tell everyone I saw ‘em!” at his own sister. Anyway, Kirsten and her two friends decide to break into the store where Kirsten works to have a sleepover with some of their high school boyfriends, but Mike (Dan Haggerty of GRIZZLY ADAMS fame), the washed up detective-turned-department-store-Santa has been living at the store and caught them. As the evil elf tracks down Kirsten, the group soon finds themselves attacked by Nazis that know the secret of the elf, and what his purpose is for the fate of mankind.
I’ll come right out and say it; ELVES is not a good movie. The continuity, acting abilities, logic, and gore effects are infamously terrible. However, there is no better Christmas Horror movie for 2016 than this, due in large part to the thematic subtexts running rampant all over this trash pile of cinematic adventure.
The biggest name in this film is Dan Haggerty who plays Mike, a former detective who let his alcoholism destroy his livelihood and left him unemployed and eventually homeless. Substance abuse has been something many people struggle with for many years, but 2016 has shown an epidemic of at the hands of opioid abuse. People have watched friends and families torn apart at the hands of this terrible addiction. Here, we see Mike the Mall Santa do everything he can to overcome the obstacles put in his way from his substance problem and do the right thing by helping save Kirsten from the terror that awaits.
Women’s reproductive rights and gender equality has been a hot button issue in 2016, and ELVES showcases this with its extremely outdated views of women’s reproductive rights. Incest and rape are two major focal points of the plot in addition to Kirsten and her two friends’ plan to have sex with their boyfriends in the store where Kirsten works. ELVES perpetuates the male characters’ accessibility to any sexual desire they want while punishing women for doing the same, but does so in such a laughable manner that it reminds you just how ridiculous this mentality is. The ultimate goal of this evil elf is to mate with Kirsten whether she is willing or not. It seems silly, but this is a very real fear that many women live with every single day – just swap out the weird rubber monster elf for actual human beings.
And what of the Nazis? It seems preposterous for Nazis to be relevant in 2016 and yet HERE WE ARE. The pure absurdity of Nazis making a comeback aligns perfectly well with the absurdity of Nazis trying to harness the evil of an elf that survived God’s great flood on Noah’s ark. The insanity of Nazis trying to “purify” the race of civilization is as insane as a Nazi sympathizer being elected to public office in a country like the United States of America. This holiday season, when my news outlets will be whining about Black Santa portrayals and green Starbucks’ cups, I’m going to be sitting back and watching ELVES, where at least the ridiculousness is fictional.
*Photos: Action International Pictures Home Video (AIP)