For a party ghoul who's spent two decades scaring up laughs as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Cassandra Peterson sure does spook easily. In fact, the mere mention of the Rumanian shoot for her blood-curdling new comedy Elvira's Haunted Hills (having its New York premiere Friday) sends a chill down her spine.

"It was really brutal... one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my entire life," she tells TV Guide Online without a hint of the cheekiness that is her stock in trade. "Everyone had to work under unbelievably awful conditions — horrible food, horrible rooms... There were moments when you thought you were just going to fall down and cry because you weren't going to make it."

On the rare occasions when day-to-day hardships didn't give Peterson nightmares, Haunted Hills still made her toss and turn — she not only stars in the Hammer Films parody, she also co-wrote and co-produced it. "We financed it entirely ourselves, so we were digging money for it out of holes in our backyards — everywhere, I tell you. And using your own [dough] is so incredibly frightening. You're just in a state of panic the entire time."

Having gotten an advance peek at the finished product, we can happily reassure Peterson that she has no reason to indulge in a case of pre-release heebie-jeebies: Haunted Hills is Elvira at her best — sassy, saucy and sillier than ever. Down deep, the former Movie Macabre hostess probably knows it, too. Even the picture's shortcomings have left film-fest audiences rolling in the aisles.

"The cheesy special effects that we used because we couldn't afford better ones actually get a big laugh," she reports. "It's kind of like, 'Oh, whew. I'll just tell people that we did that on purpose.'"