Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988) Movie Review
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: James Signorelli
Producers: Eric Gardner and Mark Pierson
Writers: Sam Egan, John Paragon, and Cassandra Peterson
Date Released: September 30, 1988
Cassandra Peterson as Elvira/Great-Aunt Morgana Talbot
W. Morgan Sheppard as Great-Uncle Vincent Talbot
Daniel Greene as Bob Redding
Susan Kellerman as Patty
Edie McClurg as Chastity Pariah
Rating = 2.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
When Elvira claims her inheritance from a great-aunt, she finds herself with a new house, dog, and recipe book—that is to say, stuck her in her deceased aunt’s puritanical New England town.
There are a couple of bloody wounds, but nothing that will actually scare a horror fan, hardened or otherwise.
The Grave Review
This movie has a pretty simple fish out of water premise, with Elvira stuck in a stodgy New England town where she doesn’t really have a choice but to stay and be herself—at least until her car is fixed up. The elders in town don’t like her (except for her love interest, Bob [Daniel Green]), but the local teenagers love her for her refreshing take on life… well, and her looks. Things eventually get deeper when we find out that Elvira actually is heir to some pretty fantastic magical items and abilities. The two ideas manage to meld fairly well, and odd turns seem to be a part of the appeal of Elvira’s show itself and the movies she spent so many years skewering.
The cast, for the most part, feels like it was picked from a cast of eighties sitcoms. Nobody sinks the show, but many characters seem to be immersed in cheesiness. To be fair, the movie has the feel of an afterschool special at times, which does feel like a conscious choice, as it is throwing all kinds of parodies at the wall, with some things sticking and some not. Cassandra Peterson, in her best-known role, charms, of course.
Elvira is an icon of horror thanks to forty years of film commentary and other appearances, and there are no signs of Cassandra Peterson retiring her beloved character any time soon. Part of the reason why I decided to watch Elvira, Mistress of the Dark was because I’m aware of the character and her popularity but had never actually seen anything featuring Elvira (outside of documentaries that Peterson appears in). I would say that this movie does give a new viewer a pretty good idea of why Elvira is so popular across the board. You get Elvira’s schtick (double entendres are the better part of it), the bit, and what makes Elvira so appealing. The movie even remains relevant today on serious matters, as Elvira is dogged by creepy men—in fact, at the very beginning of the movie, she loses her job because she won’t sleep with her station’s owner. She doesn’t give in, she always stands up for herself, whether it’s to a creepy guy or stodgy town elder, and I found myself really liking the character, even though I was well aware that she isn’t meant to be taken that seriously, and even when parts had me rolling my eyes.
I will say that if you’re not familiar with the character, I would recommend starting episodes of her show or other media with her. Some of those moments of extreme cheesiness that bored me or just fell flat for me felt like they were moments for fans that are familiar with and invested in the character. It felt like it was schtick that I could recognize as such but just didn’t know well enough to appreciate. This one isn’t just for the fans, but the fans will have more fun with it.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Elvira Mistress of the Dark (1988) two and a half graves out of five graves.
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