On Saturday, September 25th, in the middle of the night, something strange and fantastic happened. On televisions across America, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, stepped from the shadows and let us all know that the Queen of Halloween is not dead.
Literally. She opens the show by reading her own obituary in the paper. Surprisingly, rather than embrace her newly found un-deadness, she realizes that she wants nothing more than to be alive, and what better way than to put on a show. It’s a hilariously cute bit, showing the darling diva of the dead cheeking it up as a little girl who wants to put on a play in the old barn. Cut to a nicely done retro-riffic opening sequence and we were off on a night of blood, screams, and bad puns. And cleavage. Lots of cleavage. Yes, boils and ghouls, Movie Macabre is back!
OK, maybe it wasn’t all that strange. 80’s revival is all the rage right now with everyone from The A-Team to The Karate Kid getting 21st Century makeovers and giving it another go. Why shouldn’t Elvira want to cash back in on her own 80’s icon status as the first and most successful nationally syndicated horror host? Why not, indeed? And I have to say, of all the 80’s reboots that we’ve all waded through in recent years, this was one of the most organic and true to the original. It had “fantastic” in the bag! This, I think, is mostly due to 59 year old Cassandra Peterson’s return to the role she originated, and I imagine her own insight into what made the character work to begin with.
It’s all back. The wicked little smile, the goofy props, the brassy wit, the expertly executed physical gags… oh, and did I mention the cleavage? I honestly don’t know what amazes me more; Peterson’s willingness to continue flaunting her form even as she nears 60, or the fact that she still looks stunning, and naturally so, while doing it! Ms. Peterson has taken excellent care of herself, and it shows. She also shares credits as writer and producer.
But enough about Peterson. Saturday night was all about Elvira. And zombies. For her first film, our endowed emcee chose 1968’s horror classic “Night of the Living Dead”. Even the most casual horror fan knows this black and white blood bath by George A. Romero pioneered the zombie genre, and still holds up today. It’s just as creepy and sick and dark and dreary as we love a horror film to be. Romero not only created a sickening sandbox filled with rotting corpses and viscera for his creepy cast of dozens to play in in this old film, but he also explored how human beings behave in a time of crisis; turning on one another just as quickly as the zombie hordes crept from behind to finish them off. It was an odd choice for the vampy vixen’s first foray back into our hearts and living rooms as it is far more classic than camp.
Still, we see the beginnings of a promising return to form as the Hostess with the Mostest hurriedly begins to transform her cluttered basement into a candle lit and bone strewn set worthy of one of the greatest schlock jocks of all time, distracting us with her favorite movie seemingly as an afterthought. She even breaks into the movie every now and then, usually by way of a gothic framed pop-up window in the lower left, to riff on it. Unfortunately, this device provided the few moments in the show that I didn’t like. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t, but I think that’s mostly due to the film’s lack of laughability. When it worked, it worked well, and it should prove more refined and entertaining as the movies she shows depreciate. Here’s hoping.
One thing made me smile throughout: It was refreshing to watch this film for the bazillionth time in a new way: with an old friend. This was a really fun way for a bored fan of old school entertainment to spend a Saturday night. If it succeeds in that, then hopefully Elvira’s Movie Macabre will find the audience that’s been seeking it and enjoy another long run. Whether you are amongst the uni-night-iated or tuning in for old tomb’s sake, this is bound to be campy good fun at its finest-err… fangest!
Next week is 1963’s “The Terror”. With names like Roger Corman, Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson attached to it, it’s got my curiosity piqued. Add everybody’s favorite cheeky (and busty) flick chick to the mix and we’re all in for a torrid treat, whether the movie rocks or flops. Check Elvira’s schedule here to find out how late you’ll have to stay up in your neck of the woods to see just how delightfully terrible it all turns out.