Wednesday, December 18, 2019

December to Dismember: SHELVED (2016)

If you are reading this, please send help. You see, I think Video Junkie head honcho Tom is trying to kill me. “Paranoia,” you say, but allow me to tell you my tale. While preparing this year’s “December to Dismember” titles, I thought I was in the clear when it came to elf mayhem. I’d earned my combat stripes the past two years with THE ELF (2017) and its sequel ELVES (2018), two bottom-of-the-egg-nog-barrel Christmas horrors from Uncork’d Entertainment. They were so bad that I developed PTSDVD (Post Traumatic Shitty DVD) and flinched every time I heard a wine bottle open. So imagine my surprise and glee when I found out Uncork’d had no elf on the shelf this year. Life was looking up, but then I got an email from Tom that ominously said “ALL YOU!!” and had a link to SHELVED (2016). “Ah, it is on Amazon Prime and I don’t have that. I’m in the clear,” I naively thought to myself. Then Tom tells me he found me a copy. Like I said, the man is homicidal. 

SHELVED opens with little Alice Montgomery (Kenley Mead) writing a letter to Santa Claus. Hopefully she is asking to be extricated from her mom Janet (Sarah Bertz Thomas), who mentions early on that Alice “needs to learn early about shrinking her carbon footprint.” Uh, I think that line is intended to be comedic. Dad Daren (Denny Crum) arrives home late with a surprise that he bought for Alice for Christmas. When his car broke down outside of an antique store, he went inside to ask for some help and became enamored with an elf on the shelf doll that the owner refuses to sell for any price. Hey, at least we now know screenwriter Lindsey LaForest has seen GREMLINS (1984). Undeterred Daren plunks down a $100 bill while the ornery store owner says, “You don’t want that doll, sir. I’m telling you. It’s your funeral, buddy.” with all the passion of someone ordering a value meal at Burger King. Now before you get all excited thinking we might have some cool miniature villain, know the filmmakers just took a standard old elf on the shelf and resculpted the head. The bad news? Their attempt at making it look scary ends up making it look like Buddy Hackett. 


The parents’ bright idea is to hide the elf all over the house to make Alice think it is alive. The bad news is that it is already alive and starts terrorizing the family on the first night. His shocking act of terror? Spreading toothpaste all over the bathroom! Have you ever seen such horror? Naturally, the parents are freaked out because they believe Alice did it and think this immediately warrants a meeting with child psychologist Dr. Bailey (Matthew Kimura). The elf wreaks havoc for a second night by - gasp! - driving a Barbie car around and pooping on some organic cookies. We finally get some elf extermination when a nosey neighbor (who has never been seen or introduced before this bit) brings a package into the empty house and decides to snoop for something to eat. The elf grabs a carrot, says, “Beta Carotene is good for your eye” and stabs her in the eye. Again, before you get too excited, allow me to offer this evidence to deflate any expectations.


Now is where things get messy (messier?) as we get a montage of several scenes showing Janet smoking, Dean cheating with his secretary, and Dr. Bailey researching as the elf offers the following monologue:

“Holy spirits wrapped in gold and bright blue, fruit flies and nuts in their cakes put on their shoe. (I think that is what he says!) On to the Christmas season they do, all the while their facade is so see through. With compulsions and fidelity and pride that runneth do, the temptation is to linger and find trouble to get into. Peacefully they slumber away the world they are deaf to. More victims, me think, I will bloom.”

Wait, why is he talking like a leprechaun? Also, I feel like I need therapy from Dr. Bailey for just transcribing that? The doc doesn’t do the sane thing like warning Janet by phone. He just creeps around in his car, before banging on the front door and screaming at the babysitter Stacey (Jaime Evans) to not touch the elf. His bedside manner is rough, his curbside manner is even worse. Of course the babysitter doesn’t heed the warning and instead invites over her wannabe gangsta white boyfriend. Jeez, didn’t we just see this in HOLIDAY HELL (2019)? Anyway, the boyfriend dry humps the elf (!) and the elf stabs him with a big pencil and then drills into the babysitter’s ankle. This bit actually had me howling as the babysitter doesn’t scream for help or try to escape, but just kind of calmly walks upstairs into the bathroom and slowly wraps an Ace bandage over her foot. Not surprising for someone so slow to react, she is strangled by the elf with a loofah on a string before being stabbed (in some of the worst CGI since ELVES). Oddly, when the mom comes home from a night out with a friend, she isn’t a bit concerned the babysitter is not there.


Jeez, you’d think I’d want to speed this up and get it the pain over with faster. Dr. Bailey eventually shows up at Daren’s office Christmas party (!) and tells him the story of the evil elf. Turns out he was once a stellar elf named Sgt. Gumdrop that Santa singled out as an excellent example of, uh, elf-ness. This pissed off the other elves and they beat Gumdrop with bars of soap so it snapped his mind. No, I’m not kidding, the film has a spoof of FULL METAL JACKET (1987). I’d appreciate this more if I wasn’t in so much pain from the rest of the film. Anyway, the dad decides to return the elf but finds the antique shop closed with a note saying he was now the possessor of the elf. So, naturally, he leaves the elf in the woods. This results in the one line that actually made me laugh during the film. When Daren tells Janet he left the elf in the woods, she replies, “Daren, that’s littering! I won’t have it. He’ll never decompose.” Not to be deterred, the elf hitchhikes back to the house to kill some more because, uh, yeah.

So, is Tom trying to kill me? Text 1 for “yes” or 2 for “hell yes!” Filmed in the wilds of Ohio on a reportedly $7,000 budget, SHELVED has the distinction of being made before the aforementioned THE ELF (2017) and ELVES (2018). I’d like to think the makers of those saw SHELVED and were like, “Dude, we can totally do something like that!” The problem is they failed just as hard. To be fair, I have to leave THE ELF out of this as it is semi-competent and coherent at times. So the battle for the biggest piece of Christmas “cinema” coal is down to SHELVED verus ELVES. Amazingly, this has all of the negatives as ELVES such as out-of-focus camerawork, terrible framing, horrid sound recording, flubbed lines, and scenes that make absolutely no sense. Director Michael Cullen II has an uncanny ability to let scenes unfold in a manner where you have no idea what is happening and edits them in an even more confusing manner. It is the kind of film where a doctor gets a scribbled drawing by a kid and somehow connects it a legend. The kind of film where people always talk to inanimate objects, but rarely have normal conversations with other humans. The kind of film where the elf drives over someone and they insert a sound that sounds like celery being broken. I want to give SHELVED the nod as the worst because there is actually a bit during the finale (that is parodying THE EXORCIST!) where you can hear someone stifle a laugh off camera. Then again, that unintentional bit aside, this is aiming to be a comedy and ELVES was dead serious. How can I declare a winner? I guess it is a draw and effigies of both films need to be burned worldwide. As of December 2019, I will be the lone IMDb review on this bastard and I’ll admit I felt a bit of camaraderie when a random kid threatens to blow the elf with a firecracker and says, “I am going to burn your bastard little ass.” But then I see it has five reviews on Amazon Prime and realize I am not alone in the cold, cruel world. I’ll leave it to my boy Brad Miller’s one star, one-sentence review that pretty much sums it all up and probably gave me the biggest laugh associated with this film.

Moments of Clarity:

2 Reactions:

  1. You're a good guy, William, which makes me feel guilty that I find your annual Christmas agonies so darned entertaining. Happy harrowing holidays!!

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    1. My pain is your pleasure! Seriously, appreciate you reading, Bob.

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