The Elf

02/23/2019 10:00

Film: The Elf

Year: 2017

Director: Justin Price

Writer: Justin Price

Starring: Natassia Halabi, Gabriel Miller and Lassiter Holmes



This film was another that I decided to check out during my Christmas horror film round up in December. I had heard some unfavorable reviews of the film, but I can be a glutton for punishment, so I was curious to check it out. The official synopsis for this film is Nick (Gabriel Miller) is haunted by night terrors stemming from a tragic murder he saw when he was young. After inheriting an old toy shop, he discovers a cursed elf doll sealed inside an ancient chest with a naughty list of his family’s names on it. He soon discovers what happened all those years ago.

I do have to say, that I feel if I would have read the synopsis before seeing the film, some of my issues would have been resolved. The film kicks off with an older man as he is sewing the mouth shut of a boy. Something then comes in and takes a list off his desks.

We then jumped to a couple inside a toyshop. Nick is there with his fiancée Victoria (Natassia Halabi). During my viewing of the film, I was confused as to why they were there. The film didn’t do a very good job at establishing that. The film does get a bit creepy though as Nick goes into the back and finds a box. He reads an inscription on the side of it and opens it to find an elf doll. I found the doll looked fine, but I hated the knife that was in its hand. It does make a little bit of sense during the reveal why this knife is there, but it feels out of place. In the front of the store, Victoria is freaked out by a man outside and talks to her friend on the phone. We get the idea there is some apprehension between the couple.

It then establishes what that is. Nick spent some time in a mental hospital and still has night terror like dreams. He was there when his parents were murdered and he refuses to talk about it. It also explains why he hates Christmas. Victoria doesn’t know why and he refuses to talk about it. When they get home, the elf doll has followed them there and this angers Victoria, thinking that Nick was the one who put it there.

Things take quite the turn when Nick goes to shower and has an episode. He is freaked and wants to leave. When he comes downstairs, Victoria’s family is there. They don’t seem to really like Nick and it seems to come from they know the truth about his past. Things take an even darker turn as the elf that was released starts to pick them off, one by one.

As I’ve kind of alluded to, I knew some of this from watching the film, but the synopsis I read to start this review filled in some of the blanks. For me as person who pays most attention to the story, this was problematic for me. I was lost early on and I think there are just major plot-holes in the story.

The film kind of explains how the old man is tied into all of this, but it also doesn’t make sense. I like the idea that this doll is a conduit for evil and that it is coming to punish those who are bad. My problem here though is that it kills anyone in its path without abandoned. I think if you are going to use this concept, we need to have why they are being punished. I can think of a reason for some of the characters, as it was legit shown to us, but there are others that I think the film was just padding the body count.

I was also confused as to where this film is taking place. I saw at the end it was filmed in New Mexico. That isn’t the most ideal setting for a Christmas film. We do hear that there is a horrible snowstorm coming, which is also fine. The characters are wearing heavy winter coats, but Victoria’s outfit under it doesn’t fit the weather. When the snow starts, the amount that they are getting it, yet none of it sticks. There is a snowman outside, but no snow around it. I think the film just didn’t execute this well enough to explain where we are and how this blizzard isn’t doing what it probably should be.

There are also some pacing issues with the film. Despite its low running time and the amount of kills we actually get, I found myself bored. I think a lot of this is actually because the film doesn’t do well at establishing the characters to the point that we care about their fate. The film just moves so rapidly that we never get the points we need when things start to turn. There is a solid twist that happens later in the film, but it doesn’t add too much. I will still give them credit for it and how it forces things to play out.

Acting for the film also had some issues. Halabi is quite attractive. I think her acting is okay in the film. I don’t want to take too much away from her, as it legitimately could be just poorly written. She does at least have an interesting character arch. Miller was fine as well. I did believe he was someone who has experienced some horrible mental trauma as a child and never got over it. I do think my issues with him could also be with the writing. The rest of the cast was subpar. I didn’t really care about them and they really didn’t add a whole lot either.

Effects for the film were actually hit or miss for me. To start with the positive, I did think that the blood used in the film that was practical was fine. I thought some of the aftermath of attacks were as well. There was actually even a bit of good CGI. I think the elf coming to life with CGI when shown from a distance was fine. It was when it got closer is when I started to have problems. The snow and the blood spurts in the film were also done with computers and it turned me off.

Something else I have to give credit to the film is the one song that was used in the film. I really noticed it when we are seeing the elf toy when they first get back and it is used at the end as well. It has an eerie tubular bell type feel and I dug it. The rest of the score didn’t stand out, but I have nothing negative to say about it either.

Now with that said, this film was unfortunately not good. It is kind of a shame, because the concept isn’t horrible. Killer toy films are good and I think that Christmas horror films are a subgenre that does have some opportunities. It just seems like the film was plagued with underdevelopment of the story and characters. The two leads I thought had potential, but overall the acting was subpar. The effects in the film were also hit or miss. I did think that they kills themselves weren’t bad and the theme for the elf was pretty good as well. This film isn’t good and I really can’t recommend this one to anyone unfortunately


My Rating: 2 out of 10