Movie Review: “Elvira’s Haunted Hills” (2001)

This is a parody of the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Roger Corman/Vincent Price films. It stars Elvira as… Elvira. All right, so technically the actress is named Cassandra Peterson, but she really does have a unique persona when she dons the black wig. (If you don’t know who Elvira is, well, I think the poster pictured here gives you a pretty good idea of what she’s all about.)

Anyway, Elvira is on her way to open a revue in Paris when she and her servant Zou Zou are picked up by a coach traveling through the Carpathian Mountains. The coach’s passenger is a charming man named Dr. Bradley, who is bound for the remote Castle Hellsubus, the inhabitants of which are all suffering from mysterious neuroses brought on by the family curse.

Elvira handles the situation with her trademark campy, vampy, valley-girl cluelessness, which is amusing enough. What really makes the thing tick, however, are the supporting cast, all of whom do a great job in their roles as stock characters straight out of a Gothic melodrama. But Scott Atkinson as Dr. Bradley just about steals the show with his uncanny channeling of Vincent Price. He absolutely nails Price’s distinctive mannerisms and tone.

There are spoofs of most of the classic Poe horrors, from The Cask of Amontillado to the crumbling mansion of The Fall of the House of Usher to The Pit and the Pendulum. No points for guessing how Elvira deals with that situation.

Admittedly, your enjoyment of the film may depend to a degree on how much humor you feel can be derived from the basic premise “this woman has large breasts.” Because they, er, milk that joke for all it’s worth, and then some. But for me, the real humor is how well the film manages to mimic the atmosphere of the Poe/Corman/Price series, while also poking affectionate fun at it. There are some genuinely creepy scenes in it–at least, until Elvira’s antics turn them into music hall routines.

If you like the Corman films, as I do, you’ll probably get a kick out of this one. It’s clear that everyone involved was having fun and had great admiration for their source material, and it’s always enjoyable to share a good-natured laugh at something with someone else who appreciates it. In short, the movie is better than it really had any business being.


What's your stake in this, cowboy?