So not only is Elvira a descendent of a witch, but she’s also the descendent of a Romanian countess. Truth be told, I’d love to see Elvira descend in to my bed, but that’s another article for another day. The good news Cassandra Peterson still has her unkempt sense of humor and she still looks damn good cracking wise and getting herself in to trouble as the Mistress of the Dark. “Haunted Hills” is the further adventures of Elvira, as the film is set in 1851 where Elvira and her servant Zou Zou travel the countryside performing for various villages. A self-proclaimed celebrity, Elvira and her servant make a habit of skipping out of bills when given the order from rather aggressive innkeepers, and the two make their days on the run and hoping for jobs.
While on the road, Elvira and Zou Zou hitch a ride with a mysterious horse and carriage and after meeting the cab’s odd owner, are whisked away to Castle Hellsubus where they’re introduced to a colorful cavalcade of characters, all of whom find Elvira to be shockingly alike to their countess Alura who died of mysterious circumstances. With a family curse, a gloved kidnapper, and a lot of breast jokes, Elvira has to figure out the mystery of the castle while trying to keep herself from being murdered. Elvira is still a fun and very alluring character and Peterson is wise enough to give her a sidekick this time around to bounce dialogue off of while also providing some wicked set pieces for horror buffs to chew on.
A clear cut homage to Hammer horror and Corman, Elvira spends most of her time in this castle that has so much history to it, you almost expect to see a photo of Vincent Price somewhere. The history behind the countess Elura is sadly convoluted and I never could understand why Elvira was the target of assassination, but nonetheless, the character is given a lot to do, including reacting to the off the wall mythology of this cursed castle, uncovering the mystery of her ambiguous ancestor, and mugging for the camera in self-aware gags that are often clever and funny. Peterson is much more tame in this sequel than in her 1988 premiere, opting for more off color jokes than more straight forward sex jokes we saw in the previous installment.
Star Peterson throws in her own references to her favorite horror films as often as she can, and even stages her own pit and the pendulum sequence with her own cheeky humor attached that will really hit home for fans of the classic Corman Edgar Allen Poe cinematic adaptations. Like the previous Elvira cinematic installment, “Haunted Hills” doesn’t re-invent the horror comedy, but it has a good time with the Elvira character and we have fun with her. Cassandra Peterson hasn’t lost her wit, edge or… ahem–assets, and with “Haunted Hills” she offers an ambitious and amusing horror comedy that pays tribute to Corman, Poe, and Price, while allowing its title character to engage in her own brand of slapstick and mayhem. It’s a fun sequel.