I just started reading Patton Oswalt's Silver Screen Fiend, which is about Oswalt's obsession with cinema. As you might expect, I can relate to a lot of his anecdotes about times when his all consuming interest in film caused him to act like a total weirdo. For example, at one point Oswalt talks about the time he and an old friend went to see a shitty Bruce Willis movie at a discount theater, and while they were waiting for the movie to start Oswalt began explaining that the movie they were about to see was based on an older movie that was based on an even older Japanese movie that was based on an American short story. Oswalt thought his friend would be impressed with his breadth of knowledge, but in fact, his friend was annoyed. He signed up to see a shitty movie, not to sit through a lecture from a blowhard.
I've been that blowhard so many times. In fact, I am about to be that blowhard one more time.
My friend Vanessa asked me to write a review of Elves, which is a cheesy late 80s horror movie about vicious elves. (Also: Nazis.) The film is pretty goofy: the violence is pretty over the top, starting with a scene where the elves castrate a sketchy mall Santa and continuing from there. There's a whole bunch of random sex talk, much of it coming from Kirsten, the story's heroine, as she hangs out with her girlfriends - but some of it also comes from Kirsten's brother who is a ten year old tit obsessed creep in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt. It's all done with a wink and a nod: when the good Santa asks a local librarian if she has any books about evil mythical creatures he is told that they are filed in the "666" section of the Dewey Decimal system. This is the sort of tongue in cheek slapdash horror film that's just begging the audience to talk back to the screen. I knew that my mission was to write a funny review of this movie.
Therefore, as I was watching Elves I was trying to come up with random jokes about incestuous ten year olds and blood thirsty elves – but I was also trying to come up with some sort of structured framework that would connect those random observations into a readable review. When I saw Kirsten’s mom drown the pregnant family cat in a toilet I thought about trying to frame this movie as the polar opposite of the sweet natured Elf, but I quickly rejected that for being too on the nose. When we first met the lecherous Santa, I naturally thought of Bad Santa… which is also a bit too obvious. When it turns out that our Kirsten's grandfather is a weird occult freak who is maybe involved with an evil Nazi plot I started to think about the Monster Squad, which is a similarly goofy monster movie that has a Holocaust survivor as a main character. A comparison to the Monster Squad might also be too obvious, but it would at least allow me to reference the scene where a young kid kicks a werewolf in the crotch to settle a bet about whether or not werewolves “have nards.”
However, all of those ideas immediately got blown out of the water after a scene in a shopping mall where Kirsten and her friends are browsing around for lingerie that they are going to steal. The three young women kept talking about their boyfriend’s dick size, and I suddenly thought of the scene in Southland Tales where Sarah Michellle Gellar’s pornstar / talk show host character unveils her new song “Teen Horniness Is Not a Crime.” I immediately knew that the Southland Tales connection could pay dividends: both films are crammed with too much shit and are a bit all over the place, plus they both weigh in on teen horniness… I started drafting a compare and contrast between these two weird turkeys…
…And then I realized, holy shit, who cares if a barely seen flop from ten years ago is thematically resonant with a horror film flop from 1989? I might enjoy a dialogue about those two cult films, but writing that would almost automatically result in a review that was disproportionately academic compared to the original subject matter. I didn’t want to make the mistake that Patton made with his old friend: I wanted to actually engage with Elves with the exact amount of seriousness that it deserved, and no more and no less, and that meant making jokes about skeevy grandpas and leaving deep bench references alone.
At which point I started watching the movie without any sort of film-nerd crutches – I was just trying to get through it completely on it’s own merits. And once I started to do that I realized: holy shit, there’s a reason why this movie is only available on YouTube. It isn’t just bad – it’s the sort of bad that’s so bad that it’s hard to make fun of. I mean, really bad, like “a lot of these scenes are so underlit it’s unclear what’s going on” bad. Like… Troll 2 bad. Wait a minute, that was a reference! Son of a bitch!
At which point I just had to admit: my brain might just be irreversibly broken. I have seen way too many movies like Elves in my life and it’s too late to do anything about that now. I am who I am, and apparently I am a man who likes to spend his time trying to connect all of the movies where werewolves have nards and teenagers have permission to be horny into one intricate web. It may not be the best fate, but it is my fate and I am resigned to it. And who knows? Some day it might lead me to getting a book deal, where my tales of woe will prompt some other weirdo to stop Youtubing an unwatchable movie at 11 pm at night and to go to bed already. Look out Patton Oswalt, once I sleep off this Elves hangover I’m coming for your shitty, obsessive, off putting, nerdy-as-hell throne!