Some people clearly love their work even when they’ve been typecast by it. Such is obviously the case with Cassandra Peterson, the woman behind the fright wig and vamp outfit of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. From movie host to TV commercial appearances to starring in her own movie, she’s still at it. And in 2001, she decided to do a second film based on her character. With Sam Irvin directing, Peterson wrote the script and produced it herself as she was unable to convince anybody else to back the film 13 years after her previous B-movie.
And Elvira’s Haunted Hills, much like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is very much a B-movie, and proud of it.
Rather than acting as a continuation of the previous film, Elvira’s Haunted Hills is its own thing, following its own story — just one that also happens to have Elvira as its main character. Elvira is as she always is, an entertainer with great ambition, valley girl attitude, and a crass sense of humor. And this, as before, intrigues and aggravates the people around here. There the similarities end, though, as this is not a story told in uptight modern suburbia, but is instead in 1800s Carpathia. When Elvira is picked up while hitchhiking by a charming country psychologist (Scott Atkinson), he invites her to accompany him to the castle of his patient, Lord Vladimere Hellsubus (Richard O’Brian). Elvira soon finds that the Hellsubus clan are, in their own ways, even odder than she is, but not in a charming way. More in a “fear for your life” sort of way.
The film is dedicated to the memory of Vincent Price, and it is full of shoutouts to classic horror films — most especially the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations Roger Corman produced and Price starred in. Tales of Terror and Pit and the Pendulum are particularly obvious influences. This helps to make the film fun for anybody who is a fan of those works, and the story in the film holds true to the nature of Corman’s films and Poe’s stories. It is a sounder film, narratively speaking, than its predecessor.
The humor, on the other hand, is pretty much the same as before. A lot of anachronistic references, some goofy jokes based on character quirks (Heather Hopper as a serial fainter particularly stands out), and a very large number of crass sex jokes. Nothing one doesn’t expect from a movie about Elvira, of course, but it has to be said that it gets old quickly. The humor isn’t bad, exactly, it’s just not very inventive. Still, the situational humor from interacting with the mad Hellsubus clan and the perils Elvira encounters works reasonably well.
It’s a film that can certainly be enjoyed, but has to be recommended only to a particular audience. A viewer who appreciates camp, knows Elvira, and particularly knows the old Corman horror films, will find some fun in this picture. Somebody who doesn’t may find it falls a little flat.