On her way to Paris to do her brand of burlesque, Elvira (Cassandra Peterson, who co-wrote) is stranded in the mountains of Romania, but finds welcome at the requisite spooky old castle. This isn’t so much a plot as a setup for joke after joke, all as flimsy as the elastic on Elvira’s signature costume. As is the case with the character of Elvira in her decades-long history, slapstick and obvious puns are at the name of the game. The proceedings are witless, but harmless. But again, witless.
An example: Elvira mistakes someone’s chamber pot for mutton stew, dipping in her finger for a taste and responding, “Somebody went a little heavy on the Tabasco.” Another, this one a fourth-wall-breaker as she climbs out of a bubble bath and address the camera: “Hey, hey, what are you doing? Wanting to blow the rating on this picture?”
Neither those nor any gag in “Haunted Hills” are really funny. I suppose one’s enjoyment of the film hinges on a tolerance for “Looney Tunes” sound effects, particularly during a recurring gag of other characters getting stuck in her cleavage. Only once does the movie show any spark, during a musical number that gives Peterson a chance to stretch (and, no, I don’t mean that in any leering manner)
For a film with a really low budget, director Sam Irvin (“Oblivion”) does his best to imbue his scenes with direct visual elements from Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe pictures for AIP, most notably “The Pit and the Pendulum.” In the extras, he and Peterson claim that “Elvira’s Haunted Hills” is a spirited parody of those classics, but other than the end-credit dedication to Vincent Price, I fail to see it. Irvin in particular equates his film to Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” which is markedly inaccurate. —Rod Lott