Released in 2017, The Elf is a horror movie about a murderous elf doll coming to life and killing everyone. It features one of the most reprehensible couples ever put to film and wooden acting from everyone in the cast. Not to mention a plot so incoherent I am not entirely sure what the ending twist meant or why it happened, or for that matter how/why the elf doll was cursed in the first place (something to do with a deal with the devil). Somehow, this movie got a sequel, Elves. Even more inexplicable, Elves is so much worse than its predecessor.
This time around the story concerns a bunch of friends plays the game ‘Naughty List.’ Leah (Stephanie Marie Baggett), Clover (Deanna Grace Congo; who also produced), Sky (Amy Jo Guthrie), Casi (Lily Martinez), Taff (Lisa May), Beth (Kristina Rev), and a few guys write why they believe they deserve to be on the naughty list onto a scrap piece of paper, only for them to discover that this is no game. Weird, creepy looking elf dolls randomly show up at their places of work or homes and convince these people to do horrific deeds. The first one to die gets into a deadly car crash, and most everyone thinks it is just an accident. However, as more of the group meet their demise via uncomfortable Truth Or Dare style smirks, they begin to suspect something of supernaturally evil is out to get them.
Plus, a Krampus mask-wearing killer is roaming the streets, seeking out only the main characters to kill. I think this person is working for the Devil (who controls the voices of the elves). Meanwhile, the surviving people track down the person who put their names on the naughty list to understand why she did this to them. She claims she had no choice, as it was either do that or die. Now, everyone is looking for a way off the naughty, uncertain when his or her time is up.
“…the story concerns a bunch of friends plays the game ‘Naughty List.’”
Elves does not have a credited screenwriter. I do not mean that IMDb simply did not list one as an oversight. The opening title sequence nor the ending credits list don’t list a story concept by credit, much less one for a screenwriter. Given how the actors are all stumbling through each scene, seemingly unaware of the endgame, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the movie was adlibbed. That would explain how nothing in the film makes a remote lick of sense. For one, exactly how are the elves possessing these people? In the first film, which to reiterate, is just awful, the doll comes to life and kills people.
Here, they become possessed and get a giant, CGI’d smirk across their face, lifted directly from the also terrible Truth Or Dare, and it is never explained how this happens. Quick side note, I am genuinely surprised that Blumhouse hasn’t sued director Jamaal Burden and the producers of Elves for how much they shamelessly lift wholesale from that disastrously received a theatrical release. It is uncanny and disheartening, given how terrible both products are.
Even more confusing is the lady who conned her friends into putting their names on the naughty list. She did that so the elves/devil/Krampus-masked person wouldn’t kill her. However, once confronted by the folks she doomed, she kills herself. So literally, she caused untold pain to families and friends for no reason. As far as the Krampus-mask person is concerned, I got nothing. I really don’t understand the inclusion of this person, aside from whoever did cobble this into a semi-story like structure not being imaginative enough to come up with creative kills that don’t involve a slasher.
“…does not have a credited screenwriter…”
The acting does not do Elves any favors. Everyone comes across as flat and dull as if he or she read their lines five seconds before shooting the scene. Every person in the film should seek alternative means of employment, as they have no hope of ever making it in the acting world; even in the low budget, independent one. Yes, this is some of the worst acting I have ever seen in my movie watching life.
Jamaal Burden’s direction is the absolute worst part of Elves. He set up the camera, yelled action, and just hoped everything was in frame. No effort to create atmosphere or tension can be found anywhere in any scene. The editing is clunky and fails to create momentum. The set design is almost non-existent, seemingly taking place at the apartments of the film crew and the abandoned warehouse (?) where the movie proper begins looks like it was filmed an abandoned theater. Why would they all be in such a place? Don’t expect an answer to that question.
The Elf might have been awful and confusing, but writer-director Justin Price at least made it feel like a narrative was being told. Elves can’t even manage that basic task; nothing happens, and no one has an arc of any kind. The movie is so terrible in every way, it not only can’t justify its existence, it gives independent horror movies everywhere a bad reputation. Easily one of the worst films of 2018, and it is not even fun in a so bad its good way, as it is too boring and incomprehensible for that.
Elves (2018) Directed by Jamaal Burden. Starring Stephanie Marie Baggett, Deanna Grace Congo, Amy Jo Guthrie, Lily Martinez, Lisa May, Kristina Rev.
1 Lump Of Coal (out of 10)