It's hard to know where to start when trying to review a film like Bubba Ho-Tep. My formal training reminds me that people tend to remember only the first paragraph and last paragraph of any article they read. With that in mind I will get this out of the way early on. Bubba Ho-Tep is SUPERB movie-making, so stop reading this review, click on the link at the bottom of the page and order this DVD.....right, done that? O.K on with the review.
Elvis (Bruce Campbell) is alive, he is eighty something years old and he lives in an old peoples home in East Texas. He has a tumour on his pecker, and he is waiting to die. He spends his days watching the world pass him by in a blur and contemplates his lost youth and flaccid virility, even when his attractive nurse (Ella Joyce) applies ointment to his tallywackle. But Elvis is not the only famous patient in the confines of the Shady Rest Nursing Home. It is also home to JKF (Ossie Davis) who explains to Elvis that his political enemies have had a portion of his brain removed and replaced with sand, and his skin dyed black in order to more conveniently dispose of him. But all is not well in Shady Rest. The undertaker is an increasingly frequent visitor to the rest home, and the strange nocturnal noises are beginning to sound increasingly suspicious to Elvis and JFK. Soon they are on the trail of a deadly Mummy who sucks the souls of the living (through any available bodily orifice) cursing them to an afterlife as the excrement of a Soul Sucker. Elvis and JFK cannot stand the thought of losing their dignity and self respect any more and decide they must team up and kill the Mummy even if it means their lives.
Directed by Don Coscarelli, who will be known to horror fans as the director of the Phantasm series of movies, Bubba Ho-Tep is an adaptation of a short story by cult horror novelist Joe Lansdale. Coscarelli stumbled upon the story while browsing a bookstore looking for his next project. Despite loving the story he was finding the script a hard sell around the Hollywood majors. Thank god then for the independent filmmakers spirit that eventually got the movie made. Bubba is a joyous experience. Totally hilarious but with a heart and soul the size of Texas, it treats its characters with an honest respect and affection. It avoids the label of camp horror by playing the story straight, and you will soon be accepting that Elvis and a dyed JFK could be seeking redemption by tackling a soul sucking Egyptian mummy with a zimmer frame and a bedpan. It has a Pythonesque surreal and outlandish feel (the thought that a mummy would sit on the loo carving obscenities about the love life of Cleopatra in hieroglyphics on the stall wall had me choking with laughter). And yet it also takes the time to comment on the disposable society we inhabit, when the elderly are abandoned as useless and left to die a lonely death out of the way of public gaze, no matter how great or worthy their life has been.
Bubba Ho-Tep is brought to life by the endearing performances of both Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. Their comic timing is exemplary and between them they are the best comedy duo since Morecombe and Wise. Campbell is the essence of an aging Presley and his pathos and sincerity are keys to believability, in what could have been camp and ridiculous. Bubba Ho-Tep is a true gem, once again thank god for the creativity of the independent moviemaker.