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The Elf Review

The Elf is a 2017 horror film about a young man who discovers a cursed elf doll sealed inside an ancient chest with a naughty list of his family’s names written on it.

It’s funny how the addition of a single word can change the very expectation of what a movie might be. While Elf is, no matter your inclination towards the writings of JRR Tolkien, a joyful sounding word conjuring images of toymakers in the North Pole (or Will Ferrell), adding ‘the’ to it lends it a certain creepiness, something no doubt director Justin Price was hoping for. Unfortunately, even as his latest film, The Elf works hard to be so, there’s nothing scary about this bizarre Christmas horror film, a genuinely mind bending experience that feels more like a student film made over the weekend than a studio release.

The story opens with Nick (Gabriel Miller) and his finacé Victoria (Natassia Halabi) browsing through what appears to be a flea market-like store full of old-timey tidbits and such, where Vic chances upon an aged toymaker ledger that is full of some mystery. Meanwhile, in the back, Nick finds a wooden chest with a warning that what lies inside will be a curse, of which much concerns a small elf doll and a naughty list. He is even branded by a seal. When the couple arrive home, they discover the elf sitting on a bookshelf, and Nick begins to suffer horrible hallucinations, or more actually repressed memories before this whole family shows up for a surprise Christmas party. It’s not long after that when the body count rises and Nick and Vic have a bloody Christmas on their hands.

The Elf is an amateurly made film from start to finish with poor production and direction, and while Price, who is also the film’s writer, strives for some mystery, is wholly undercut by the severely limited budget, though that is not hardly the larger problem. While I’ll grant you the CGI elf is, considering the above sentence, passable, it’s barely a foot tall and hardly moves, a tiny knife in his hand that inspires more snickers than fear. Letting that go and accepting the premise, the story is a loosely stitched narrative of oddly paced and staged action that fail to give the film any sense of momentum. Scenes often don’t mesh and many are either unrelated or abandoned.

This leads us to the acting, which is truly the most damaging part of The Elf, even as the cast clearly work to take it seriously. That in itself is one issue, but these are untrained actors working with very loose direction, not helped by poor editing. It’s troubling to watch as each have no urgency about them and offer no sense of investment. A collection of carolers that comes to the house is a cringe-inducing moment that is really the last straw per se in hoping The Elf could be redeemed.

Some people are drawn to ‘bad’ movies, seeking fun, tongue-in-cheek B-films for a night of cheap thrills and silly laughs. I sort of thought, based on the art and synopsis, that The Elf might fit the bill, kind of like last year’s Krampus Unleashed, a cheaply-made but fun Christmas horror that knew what it was. However, Price, whose earlier Alien Reign of Man was marginally better, is obviously working on a whole other plane than most, and delivers another heavy, joyless experience that will be hard for most fans of the genre to get behind.

The Elf Review

Movie description: The Elf is a 2017 horror film about a young man who discovers a cursed elf doll sealed inside an ancient chest with a naughty list of his family's names written on it. 

Director(s): Justin Price

Actor(s): Natassia Halabi, Gabriel Miller, Lassiter Holmes

Genre: Horror

  • The Elf
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