Tuesday, December 11, 2018

December to Dismember: ELVES (2018)

It was approximately a year ago that some dumb ass (yours truly) got hypnotized by the awesome cover for THE ELF (2017), which ultimately led to a love-hate affair with Redbox rejects. I just wanted a good ol’ Christmas horror movie. What I got was a horrible Christmas movie. High off the cash pilfered $1.75 at a time, Redbox quickly got a sequel from Justin Price’s Pikchure Zero Entertainment out just in time for this year’s holiday season. Now THE ELF was truly an abomination against filmmaking and I can’t imagine something being worse. “Hold my eggnog,” said the production company. Just as the titular creature multiplied, ELVES has somehow expanded on all the errors and ways to make a movie unbearable.

We open in the same small Texas town of Alton (I know this because of the end credits, not due to any filmmaker insight of establishing locations) as two young boys dig through a box of Christmas stuff. One of them hears a noise and goes to investigate in a bedroom, where he discovers a variation of the elf doll from the first film. It apparently possesses him and makes him put his younger brother in the oven. Lucky kid, out of the film by the five minute mark. We then cut to a title sequence so drawn out with every actor in the film listed that even Charles Band would complain of it being flagrant padding for length.

The main story kicks in on December 21st with a bunch of friends having a party in a dilapidated warehouse where they just sit around in lawn chairs. Apparently they are all there to celebrate Clover (Deanna Grace Congo), who one man toasts as being a “local hero, activist and lifesaver.” Now what this praise is in relation to is anyone’s guess because plot details are not a strong point for Pikchure Zero Entertainment (more on that in a bit). After plaudits are exchanged and liquor shots downed, Chance (Norma Mendiola) decides to introduce her friends to the “Naughty List” game that involves the creepy elf doll from the opening. According to the rules, you put your name on the list and “once upon the list, the only way to survive is to do what the elf tells you.” Wow, sounds like a real fun game. First on the list is Cali (Melissa Vega), who sees the elf magically appear in her hands. This amazing bit of cinema is accomplished by her holding the elf doll in her hands, pulling it up into the frame, acting shocked, and going, “Who put this here?” Yes, the same trick you did with your friends when you made movies with a video camera when you were twelve. We cut to the next morning and Cali is dropping Clover and Leah (Stephanie Marie Baggett) off. Apparently the curse has really weighed on her as she says, “I’m just ready for this to be over.” You and me both, guuuuurl! The elf shows up in her backseat, causes her to grin evilly, and hit a guy with her car.

Next up we have Randy (Loren James Haskins) working at a bar where the elf shows up on a shelf with a note telling him to poison a customer. This freaks him out so he meets three friends at the library, where they watch a news video stating Cali killed herself in a crash after driving over that guy (who, as the film reveals, had killed her younger brother in a hit-and-run last year). This leads to one of many dialogue scenes that had me questioning my sanity.

Clover: I got a text right before it happened.
Randy: What did it say?
Clover: I don’t know, I guess around 8.

WHAT? Oh, just wait my dear friends. It’s going to get loopier. Apparently the group becomes concerned for Tiffany (Erika Martinez) as she is next on the list and Clover gives her a call. Too late as the elf is in her house now and makes her snort a bunch of drugs in front of her mom. She survives her overdose and, later surrounded by friends, she wakes and asks, “Am I dead?” to which Clover responds, “Not yet.” Uh, thanks? The friends decide they need to have a big group talk where they relay their information and how it is similar to films like TRUTH OR DARE (2018) or IT FOLLOWS (2014). No better way to establish your pedigree than to have characters name films that are muuuuch better than what they are watching. Hey, at least I know someone who had a hand in this mess watches movies.

Okay, so far, so tedious. But this has been pretty normal stuff so it is time to shake up things as only Pikchure can. We randomly cut to three goth girls sitting in a pentagram with the original elf doll from the first film. They are doing some ritual and it causes one girl to stick a barbeque fork in her neck to end her life (oh how I envy her!) and the red-headed goth beats the other girl to death. Now, sit down for this, the killer girl is Sky (Amy Jo Guthrie), the goth best friend from the first film. So, yes, we finally have a connection between films outside of location. Now how do I know this? Well, because I recognized her and saw the character name in the end credits. Yes, once again, the film steadfastly refuses to establish trivial things like character names. Still with me? Good cuz I’m gonna lose your ass. We then meet a random guy out in a snowstorm who is having car trouble. He finds a Christmas ball in his car seat and then is killed by someone wearing a Krampus mask in his backseat. Wait, who the heck is this killer? Who is this guy? Who am I? What the hell is going on? As much as I hate to resort to posting a meme, this is wholly appropriate:

With their friends dropping like plot points in the script, Clover and Leah decide they need to investigate. They go to visit Chance and she fills them in on the history of the elf before shooting herself in the head. Smart lady. Our investigative duo then visit an “old” lady named Clara for more info about this curse. Wait...who the hell is Clara? No idea as the filmmakers never bother to establish who she is. Okay, if my talk of dumb dialogue has gotten you all worked up, get ready because we are about to reach the peak. I present the mother of all nonsensical exposition exchanges I’ve EVER encountered in any movie. This is Clara explaining why the elves do what they do.

Clara: The biblical Magi. They’re also referred as [SIC] the Three Wise Men or Three Kings. They were in the Gospel of Matthew or traditional Christian ideals. There’s a group of distinguished foreigners that visited Jesus after his birth bearing gifts. I don’t know, the Gospel of Matthew was the only one out of the four chronicled gospels to mention the Magi. See, Matthew reports that they came from the East to worship the King of the Jews. The gospel never mentions the number of Magi. But the Western Christian denominations, they just traditionally assumed them to be three.
Leah: The Three Wise Men, yes. What does this have to do with the elf?
Clara: Only a number because of the statement that they brought three gifts. But the Enochian translation it was seven. Psalm 72, Chapter 11. May all kings fall down before him.
Clover: Why seven?
Clara: Pride. Greed. Lust. Envy. Gluttony. Wrath. Sloth. All of them major sins, but also virtues.
Leah: You mean that there are seven of these things? These elves.
Clara: Just two.

Seven deadly sins, two elves, many confused viewers. Now as if my brain wasn’t scrambled enough, this scene ends with the “old” lady - who looks to be in her thirties- pointing toward a wall that she has a “Class of 2016” mural on and Leah goes, “Oh...my...God! She’s only 20.” Now I can take from the reactions of the folks on screen and music that this reveal is supposed to be a shocking moment. It is only shocking in the sense that I have no idea what is going on.

To add to the building confusion, we then see Sky and the original elf kill four people who are in a Christmas support group called Santa’s Helpers. Don’t get too excited for an elf attack as this just involves Sky throwing it to a person, them catching it and then holding it to their neck while they scream. We then see the Krampus killer again as they beat Tiffany to death with a plastic tree (!) and then stalk and kill John (who?) in the library. Finally, the two plotlines converge when Clover and Leah are just randomly sitting in a car and Sky randomly jumps in the backseat with a gun and forces them to drive to her apartment. It is here she has the elf’s chest, reveals something about the elf causing a hunt, and is quickly shot dead; presumably because someone asked her “why are you doing this?” and that was too tough a choice for the filmmakers. It is then revealed that Clover was the Christmas killer all along and...fuck it, where are my keys? I need to get this shit out of my house and back in the Redbox ASAP!

Okay, I’m officially gone, lost, no bars, service unavailable. I’ll be honest, this movie might be one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. If you know my viewing habits, that is a bold statement. How bad is it? The Dan Haggerty ELVES (1989) is now not the worst movie with that title. This is not a movie, it is a flagrant attack on all things cinema. It is actually funny the film has a fleeting plot point about the seven deadly sins because I went through the seven stages of grief with this sumbitch. Actually, I might be stuck in the anger stage as I’m still fuming over how awful this is and how it could get made. Now THE ELF was truly terrible stuff, but even its muddled storytelling could be forcibly mapped out. No chance with ELVES as debuting director Jamaal Burden (which may or may not be a pseudonym for Justin Price) fails even the most rudimentary elements of film storytelling. Burden obviously wanted to live up to his last name as it is up to viewers to suss out who these characters are and what motivations they might have (if any). And trust me, that is hard work! For example, the kids at the party may have been celebrating Clover helping capturing a killer named The Holiday Reaper (which, in turn, may or may not be the Krampus masked killer). Now I know this information not from the film itself, but by reading the film’s press release. Yes, the filmmakers can’t be bothered to include dialogue as to just why their hero is heroic. Echoing the ineptness in the direction and scripting, one has to marvel at the technical aspects of the film. We have some of the worst CGI to grace my screen in a long time complete with terrible CGI blood (see pic above) and this time they don’t even bother to animate the title creatures. We also get plenty of moments of camera accidents. My personal favorite was a moment during the meeting with Carla where the camera suddenly tilts down and they left it in the film.

Another example of the film’s boneheaded-ness is in the special features on the disc. There is an interview with lead and co-producer Deanna Grace Congo. She seems likeable enough and you can’t discount her enthusiasm. Now here is the interesting thing - Congo mentions she is a magician and performs some cool sleight of hand tricks. Now think about this for a second - they have someone capable of doing something cool...and never once think to try and find some way to work this into their scenario! Doubly criminal since Congo was a co-producer. How can you not choose to work in something that could only be an asset? Even if it was a throwaway gag at their party, it might be something to get viewers involved. Nope! We will have nothing interesting in our film. ELVES is a true abomination: A film made by rank amateurs and shoved out onto the market by a cynical company with all the love and care of a disgruntled Santa’s little helper on that toy assembly line in the last five minutes of their final day. I’m not a religious man by any means, but rumor on the street is God hit up the filmmakers after finding out about this end credit shoutout and asked for them to keep him out of it.

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