Elvira, Cassandra Peterson Panel

Cassandra Peterson was in character as the legendary horror hostess Elvira: Mistress of the Dark at the London MCM Expo. Her coming to the UK was timed to coincide with the UK DVD release of Elvira’s Haunted Hills, released by 4 DigitalMedia. The film features Elvira staying in a spooky castle while on her way to Paris. However, trouble ensures when the castle’s owner, Lord Vladimere Hellsubus (played by Richard O’Brien), can’t help but find that Elvira shares a resemblance to his late wife.

Originally released in the US back in 2001, the film has taken a while to finally make it to the UK. “It’s a pretty funny movie if I do say so myself,” said Elvira. Taking the stage at Theatre B, the Mistress occasionally tossed and played with her long black hair, as well as delivering a fair amount of wit (“A lot of people would like to hold Elvira’s Haunted Hills,” she joked), which made this a fun panel.

“I started off hosting local horror films on a local channel in Hollywood 30 years ago,” she said, explaining a bit about her history to the audience. “The show very soon after became national in the US. I was very shocked and surprised as I really didn’t think the show would go longer than maybe one week, or two.”

After this she seemed a little unsure about the UK crowd and wondered if they really knew who she was! “I don’t know what you guys see over here. Have you guys ever seen Elvira: Mistress of the Dark? The movie? Raise your hands.” A number of hands shot up in the air. “Oh thank God,” she said when she saw the response, which meant that a lot of people had clearly seen her first film, which was released back in 1988.

She went on to mention a competition that she is currently running online, called Elvira’s Horror Hunt. “We’re looking for the next best horror movie,” she said. “So you, or anyone you know, who is an amateur filmmaker, submit your films to us. We’ll judge them, a big panel of very famous judges will be involved, and the person who wins the best picture film and best short film will be flown to Hollywood for a big red carpet premiere.” She revealed that the winning films would also be shown at Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles, which takes place later this year in September. “You can send anything you got. Just go to elvirashorrorhunt.com, okay! You can win a trip to Hollywood! We can hang out!”

Having started out as a horror hostess she revealed that she’s “particularly fond of the old, bad, 60s, cheesy, horror films.” However, from viewing so many over the years she felt that they tend to all meld together, saying, “I don’t know which one’s which anymore. They do become one big really bad horror movie in my brain. I think my favourite movie in the world is Plan 9 From Outer Space, and we know how good that is, right?”

Having been involved in films, games and TV shows, Elvira was asked if the character would be making an appearance in animation. “I have worked on doing an animation project so many times, you can’t even believe it. I’ve had three or four deals to do with animation, and they have never gotten completed all the way through producing. I still have an animation project I’m working on, just been pitching it the last few weeks actually, for a full-length feature film starring Elvira as an animated character. I really think at this age, that is the way to go! Animation baby, yeah!”

She was then asked if she preferred Elvira or Cassandra. “Cassandra is my trampy alter-ego,” she said. “I try to stay away from her as much as possible! I definitely prefer Elvira. She’s much more interesting, beautiful and exciting.”

With the trailer to Elvira’s Haunted Hills shown, she went on to describe how the film came together. “It was made for a really, really, really, low, low budget, unlike my first one, which was made for a big budget, because the second one I had to pay for!” She revealed that the budget of the film was about $1 million. “It’s actually an amazing looking film for the price that we spent. The quality actually looks really, really good.” Further proving just how small the budget was, she said, “We have a few effects in here… they weren’t special effects, they were just effects because we couldn’t afford the special ones!”

On her co-star Richard O’Brien, she said, “He was fantastic. I was so thrilled that he actually played the part, considering the money that we were offering him!”

Filmed in Transylvania, Romania, she described shooting there as “a challenge. We were in a town with no electricity,” she laughed. “Really, really hard to rig your camera and lights! So we actually had to bring in batteries, battery power.”

As well as electricity, it turned out that they were also limited when it came to requiring a black cat. “We asked them if they could find a black cat. Of course they have no animal services there with which to get a black cat, no trained ones. So I said ‘Why don’t you just go buy a stuffed animal at a toy store? Buy a black cat’. And they came back with a brown kangaroo, which we ended up using because that’s all we had!”

“I hope you guys can pick up a copy,” said Elvira of her DVD. “If any of you have ever seen the old Hammer films, or the old Roger Corman films, I think you guys will enjoy this film.” 

Elvira’s Haunted Hills is now available to purchase on DVD.

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