• Bubba Ho-Tep

    by  • October 11, 2003 • Movie Reviews and Features, Writing

    Directed by: Don Coscarelli
    Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Bob Ivy
    Rated: R for language, some sexual content and brief violent images.
    Parental Notes: This is a strange film. Teens who love Campbell’s work will doubtless enjoy it, but those without an odd sense of humor and a strong appreciation of adult themes will find it disappointing.


    Between his film work on movies like the “Evil Dead” trilogy and television work like “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” Bruce Campbell has established himself as a sort of horror-comedy everyman. His new picture, “Bubba Ho-Tep” fits right in, but this time Campbell’s no everyman. This time he’s the king of rock’n’roll himself.
    Elvis Presley, we learn, is not dead at all. Sick of fame and hypocrisy, he swapped places with an Elvis impersonator years before his “death” and then missed his chance to swap back. Now in his seventies, he hobbles around an East Texas convalescent home, musing about life and badgering the nurses to call him Elvis.
    The only person in the place who believes he’s really The King is Jack (Ossie Davis), who thinks he’s JFK. Elvis doesn’t believe him, but likes him anyway. Things are simple until residents of the home start dying a bit too frequently and Jack turns up evidence that the deaths are the work of an Egyptian mummy. There’s no way anyone will believe two old codgers like Jack and Elvis, so they have to take on the monster themselves.
    As one might expect, “Bubba Ho-Tep” is a strange blend of black comedy and old style creepiness. The mummy is only glimpsed for most of the film, though the closeups later on show that director Don Coscarelli (“The Beastmaster”) didn’t skimp on the effects budget. What he saved by avoiding slasher movie gore, he spent on old-age makeup for Campbell and eerie effects for the mummy.
    What makes “Bubba Ho-Tep” cult classic material, though, is its smattering of down-to-earth philosophy and morbid humor. Elvis, like most older folks, is almost distressingly candid about both death and his own medical issues. He’s also prone to introspective musings about the folks from his former life. This is a funny movie, but also at times a thoughtful one. Elvis knows he’s nearing the end of his life, and can’t help wondering about what might have been. For him, battling the mummy offers a chance to be a hero, not just play one like he did in the movies.
    “Bubba Ho-Tep” can mostly be described by what it isn’t. it’s not a fast, action-packed slasher flick. It’s not a roll-in-the aisles comedy. It’s not a lame “Elvis and JFK vs. The Mummy” flick, either. What is it, then? Pure Bruce Campbell madness. A fun change from the heavy-handed and predicatble dreck Hollywood churns out. A funny yet touching examination of old age and mental infirmity.
    A movie worth driving to a little indie cinema to see.

    About

    Ealasaid is a technical writer, freelance movie reviewer, bookbinder, and geek-of-many-trades based in Portland, OR.