Face-Off: Elves vs. Jack Frost

Horror fans are looking forward to the release of Michael Dougherty's KRAMPUS with great anticipation, and this Friday we'll find out if the film will do for Christmas what Dougherty's TRICK 'R TREAT did for Halloween. While we wait to see if KRAMPUS will be the gift we've been hoping for or a lump of coal, this week seemed like the appropriate time to look back at a couple of the supernatural Christmas horrors that have preceded it, stocking stuffers from 1989 and 1997: ELVES and JACK FROST.
When the blood of teenage virgin Kirsten hits the ground in a forbidden forest, it awakens a nasty little elf that was part of a Nazi plot to create a "master race" of elf/human hybrids. As the elf stalks Kirsten with the intention of impregnating her at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, Nazis also come to town to make sure this new race gets started. Surrounded by evil, the girl only has one person to turn to for help: the local mall Santa.
When the prison transport van taking serial killer Jack Frost to his execution collides with a tanker truck carrying acidic solution from a genetic research lab, the killer merges with the snow on the ground, rising as a mutant snowman. He proceeds to use his condition to his advantage as he seeks revenge on the small town sheriff who put him away. With his town's residents being knocked off one-by-one, the sheriff has to figure out how to stop a pile of living snow.
Elves appealed to the Nazis because they're magical and can't be killed, but the little guy who stalks his way through this movie isn't all that impressive. Despite the title, there is only one elf here, and although it's a nicely designed, hideous creature (I really don't want to imagine a bunch of these monsters building the toys Santa has brought me through the years), you can tell that writer/director Jeffrey Mandel was very limited in how much he could show of it.
I always loved watching Frosty the Snowman when I was a kid. I liked the character, and felt sad every single time I watched him melt, leaving behind the promise that he'll "be back again someday". All the good will Frosty earned for snowmen gets dashed by Jack Frost, who looks ridiculous, but I guess we can let that slide since he's a mutant. This is a guy who loves being evil, laughing and joking his way through multiple murders, so if you don't like wisecracking, pun-making killers, stay far away from this movie.
You can't really blame Kirsten if she comes off as being sour sometimes. Her little brother is a pervert, her mother is a cruel sociopath, and not only is her grandfather a Nazi, he's also her father. The fact that cop-turned-Santa Mike McGavin is played by Dan "Grizzly Adams" Haggerty automatically makes the character more likeable than he might have been otherwise. There's something awesome about seeing Haggerty unearth a Nazi scheme involving genetically engineered elves, even if he does underplay most moments to a stunning degree.
The hero of this tale is Sheriff Sam Tiler, a likeable, good-natured family man brought to the screen with a Fred Willard-esque charm by Christopher Allport. Tiler is joined in the search for Jack Frost by an FBI agent and a representative of the genetic research company, but we all know it's going to be up to Tiler to save the day. What we could never suspect is how the oatmeal Tiler's young son Ryan cooked up will play into the climax.
Poor ugly little elf. In its own movie, it gets overshadowed by the violent actions of other characters, whether it be Kirsten's mom drowning her cat in the toilet or Nazis having shootouts. It does manage to get in a few good slashery kills, most notably stabbing a lascivious mall Santa multiple times in his jingle bells and electrocuting someone in a bathtub.
JACK FROST is packed with entertaining kills that often utilize items associated with winter and/or Christmas. There's decapitation via sled, projecticle icicles, a character gets their face slammed into tree ornaments, and in the film's most popular scene a "before she was famous" Shannon Elizabeth is violated with Jack's carrot nose in a bathtub.
It doesn't feel like ELVES was filmed in the winter, a fact that they try to cover up by having characters point out the lack of snow on Christmas. Mandel did try his best to make up for that, setting a large amount of the running time in a well-decorated store. With Christmas trees, presents, bands playing Christmas music, and a couple Santas, there's no question that this is a Christmas movie, with or without snow.
A blizzard, snow on the ground, Christmas music, Christmas trees, a small town all decorated for the holiday, characters bundled up in heavy clothes. The weather may look a bit too warm in a shot here and there, but for the most part writer/director Michael Cooney did a wonderful job capturing the appearance and tone of Christmas in small town America.
Well, that was unexpected. ELVES and JACK FROST may not be called winners very often, but they're both winners in this match-up. ELVES brings the entertainment with its insane plot and the presence of Dan Haggerty, while JACK FROST provides a whole lot of fun with its goofy killer and inventive death scenes. They both earn the title of "so bad, it's good", and both are fine horror movies to kick back and watch with friends during the holiday season while sipping on some spiked eggnog.

Do you find ELVES and JACK FROST equally enjoyable, or do you think there's a decisive winner in this battle? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and if you have an idea for future match-ups, send your Face-Off wish list to me at [email protected].



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