In the 1980s if you happened to live in a city in the U.S.A. that broadcast Elvira’s Movie Macabre on late-night TV (usually from a small station on a UHF channel), and you happened to be male entering puberty, you were one lucky individual indeed!
Elvira, whose real name is Cassandra Peterson, was an incredibly attractive and well-endowed woman in a black gothic dress so low-cut it was almost two halves put together with a piece of string. On top of that (for this reviewer, anyway) she had two qualities that were an unbeatable combination: she loved horror, and she was hysterically funny.
The premise of Elvira's Movie Macabre was simple: use sex appeal and humor to introduce and chime in on B-horror movies, complete with a very low-budget, horrible acting and backyard effects. Meanwhile provide timely commentary on how awful everything was you were watching, sort of treating you like “one of the gang” and all the while keeping things entertaining just enough so you wouldn’t switch the channel.
Frankly, Elvira became vastly more interesting than most of the movies she ever hosted, and became a brand of her own. She later went on to star in her own movies and, ultimately, a few video games like Elvira II: The Jaws of Cerberus.
The controls interestingly mimic earlier popular RPGs like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder where you click on directional arrows to move aroumd, or click on objects in your inventory you may want to examine or use. The problem is that most of the time you’re inside a building - Elvira’s movie studio - and navigating around furniture and large rooms. There is no obvious grid to follow like in the old D&D-style adventures. So sometimes you get closer to things, and other times you’re left wondering how to walk around a chair to get to a control panel. It can be a little frustrating at times. In addition, god forbid you try to take an item in your inventory and drag it onto the screen to use it somewhere. You’ll simply drop that item. And, you’ll quickly realize you dropped it into a black hole where it disappears forever. Oh, you needed that rock to throw it through a window to unlock a door? Sorry - you’re stuck now and will need to start completely from scratch. What!?
From a puzzle stand-point, like many graphic adventures of the era they simply make no sense at all, and you’re left wondering how many hint books (or hint phone calls) they were trying to sell to bolster their revenue potential.
Elvira, or the image of Elvira, is everywhere - nearly every room seems to have a poster of her somewhere. And like the old show, she really helps make this game fun when she appears to goad you on or call you a moose brain.
The atmosphere is really good. You will die often in this game, and the way you go gets progressively nastier and gorier. In fact, the level of gore in the game far exceeds the sophistication of the movies she used to show fans on TV. While the animation is very slow (like, maybe 4 frames a second) the level of detail is impressive. The overall color palette is an interesting one, and the music is pretty good, too.
While the game was made in the UK and published by Accolade in the U.S., our friends from across the pond nailed her wit and speaking style perfectly. That, combined with a really creepy mood and engaging story make Jaws of Cerberus a must-try.
If it is Friday night and really late and you’re looking for for something to chew on, Jaws of Cerberus is definitely worth a taste.