Netflix’s Elves Review: A tonally confused holiday horror story
Netflix’s new series Elves attempts to offer a different kind of Christmas viewing option but can’t exactly land on what it wants to be with its varying tones.
Elves is a Danish series that follows a family heading to a remote island for a Christmas vacation that turns into a nightmare after the youngest daughter Josefine (Sonja Steen) discovers a mythical creature with a dark history. When it comes to its titular creatures, Elves absolutely knocks it out of the park in creating a darker fantasy depiction that’s vastly different than the elves we’re used to seeing around the holidays. The mix of puppeteering and visual effects for the elves is very strong and works well with their amazing character design. The look of these elves perfectly defines them as woodland creatures with how their heads are shaped like seeds, and the way their bodies become more ingrained into the forest as adults looks amazingly creepy.
As babies, they’re very adorable and unassuming with big reflective eyes and a child-like innocence. As adults though, they creepy as hell with how surprisingly big they get and how they eviscerate anything in their path. Elves isn’t a total gore fest or anything, but it definitely has its bloody moments that remind you that these elves aren’t cheery and a little more monstrous. It’s also awesome how the adults camouflage themselves into the trees and dirt as it adds an element of surprise to their sudden emergence and works with the lore as it makes more sense why it’s bad to cut trees down in this forest. Elves’ elves are easily the biggest highlight and something that will easily please fantasy horror fans, the rest of the series though suffers through an identity crisis that makes it an unremarkable watch.
Based on the sheer description of the series and the very Christmas-inspired opening credits, it’d be tough to blame anyone for thinking that Elves is one of those fun holiday horror stories you’d see on Syfy around the holidays. At times, it can have those vibes with the Christmas music that’s used, the more casual interactions between the family, and its somewhat cheap nature. However, it’s way too slow to be enjoyed by fans of those low-budget Syfy originals and doesn’t lean into enough fun elements. It takes its lore and world much too seriously and doesn’t have fun crazy kills or a strong amount of flair for it to be horror fun for the holidays. Elves honestly tries too hard to have an artsy feel to it and ends up being a big bore because of how little happens and how unsuccessfully atmospheric it tries to be.
Sadly though, even those looking for thematic, artsier horror for the holidays will leave disappointed by Elves. There are a lot of story points surrounding the cult-like nature of the local community and the lore of the elves as a whole that don’t get explored to the depths they deserve. The story and human characters are very thin and mostly forgettable. The themes of people inhabiting nature and taking over land from its natural owners never break past the surface and really don’t work here since we don’t know much about the history of this island. There’s barely even an explanation for why this community is so hellbent on protecting the elves given that they’ve killed people in the past. Elves doesn’t have enough depth to its story and world to hold anyone’s attention or interest.
Elves’ strengths sadly stop at its titular creatures and heavily struggles to find its identity in its tonally confused story that misses the potential to be an intriguing holiday delight for horror fans.