It’s time to giggle, fiends!
Sometimes we all need to take a break from people turning into demons and zombies and just have some fun (What the f&*k is so not fun about people turning into demons? – Shawn). I’m not just talking about fun, but the kind of fun that has goofy energy. Maybe you just want a movie you can enjoy with the rest of the family and still keep your horror love intact while you watch. If that’s the case, I’m here to help because today’s double feature pairs Elvira: Mistress of the Dark with underrated cult classic Rockula.
If you are a fan of Elvira’s Movie Macabre or just the Elvira personality, this is the film for you. Elvira, played by Cassandra Peterson, is the host of a tv show that introduces cheesy horror movies. Her ultimate dream, however, is to have her own show in Las Vegas. After being sexually harassed by the television station manager, she quits the show, and her agent assures her they can book something in Vegas as long as she can come up with the cost of the theater, which is $50,000.
The situation seems hopeless until Elvira receives a telegram stating that her great aunt has passed away. The letter requests Elvira’s presence at the reading of her aunt’s will in Falwell, Massachusetts. Upon arrival, Elvira’s revealing clothes and worldly attitude make her stick out among the conservative townsfolk of Falwell. But, conversely, these same attributes draw the local teenagers to her. They also draw the attention of the local movie theater owner.
At the reading of the will, Elvira discovers she has inherited an old house, a recipe book, and her aunt’s dog. Stuck with the house because her car breaks down, she decides to renovate the house and sell it. To do this, she enlists the help of the teens. However, Elvira does not realize that the book she inherited is actually a book of spells. It also turns out that her uncle is a warlock who wants the book in order to gain great power.
This film smartly plays to the strengths of the Elvira character and keeps everything goofy. Cassandra Peterson knows the majority of Elvira’s popularity comes from the attention her breasts garner for her. That is not to say the Elvira persona isn’t fantastic, because it is, but she has always been a visual icon because of her body and how she dresses to accentuate it. And for a great majority of the film, those attributes are very much on display. That said, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is peppered with jokes for people who came for the boobs but stayed for the humor. And just so we’re clear that it’s not all humor, there are also a couple of light Horror sequences, especially a pretty nasty dinner monster and Elvira’s showdown against the uncle. It’s the juxtaposition of these elements that make the film so enjoyable.
Our second feature this week is Luca Bercovici’s 1990 comedy Rockula. Yes, this is an outright comedy. However, this one has a lot of charm, as well as some great music.
Ralph is a centuries-old vampire who lives in 80s Los Angeles with his mother, Phoebe. Ralph is somewhat of a mopey guy. He likes to sit in his room and play his pipe organ when he is not at a bar with only three other people: a bartender, a musician, and a barfly. His mother is a femme fetal who delights in being a vampire, which is all too obvious from the stylish way she dresses and the fact she has a new lover almost daily. And making things worse for Ralph is his mirror image is alive, a complete lothario, and complains about how he is stuck in the mirror, being Ralph’s reflection. He complains that Ralph does not want to help himself or his mirror image break a curse. We learn that Ralph is such a downer because centuries ago, he fell in love with a girl named Mona, who was killed by a pirate with a peg leg because of her relationship with Ralph.
To make matters worse, Ralph runs into a reincarnated Mona every 23 years and has to repeat the process until he can prevent her death. Well, no sooner does he decide he wants to break the cycle than she literally runs into him with her car. They become smitten with each other, and Ralphie forms a band called Rockula to impress her. This incurs the anger and jealousy of Stanley, Mona’s ex-boyfriend and current manager. Can Ralph save Mona this time, or is she destined to get boned once again?
If you liked my pun, then this movie is probably for you. Dean Cameron plays Ralph. Dean is probably most famous for playing Chainsaw, the dark-haired half of the horror-obsessed duo in the comedic film Summer School (GREAT movie – Shawn). Dean is a likable actor, and it makes it easy to like Ralph even when he is mopey or infuriating as the lothario mirror image. The rest of the cast is filled out by some famous musicians and recognizable actors. Popstar Toni Basil plays Phoebe (if you don’t know, go HERE, Mickey). Toni is fantastic and really vamps it up in this film. She is a little bit Betty Page mixed with sexy mature goth, and it works. Thomas Dolby plays Stanley and contributes to Rockula’s soundtrack as well. Dolby is excellent as the goofy Stanley, who is pretty much always a jerk. The commercial ads with him as Stanley for Stanley’s casket business are among the highlights of the film. And the bartender and musician from the bar that later makes up the band Rockula are played by Susan Tyrell and Bo Diddley. I have a soft spot for Tyrell, to be honest, but it is so much fun to see a legend like Bo Diddley doing raps and wearing costumes.
The movie also functions as a kind of musical, with many performances from both Rockula and Mona. It also has a few music montages, including one that is revealed to be a music video, slyly maintaining the film’s reality. And although the music is pretty cheesy, it is very catchy. The song from Phoebe in the film stands as a personal favorite of mine.
I know comedy can be a hard sell for some. But you just can’t watch horror all the time. Sometimes you need a break, and a little levity is good. And hey, instead of subjecting yourself to whatever comedy is out there, a little comedy with a beloved horror host and a vampire may be exactly what you need. They are also pretty kid-friendly so if you have some youngins you are trying to ease to horror, these are going to both be great choices. As far as streaming, Elvira is pretty much everywhere and streaming free on Hoopla, Shudder, Prime Video, and Hulu, Rockula is only on two sources though. It can be rented on Prime Video or watched with ads on Tubi.