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Bubba Ho-Tep By Matt Singer
After what seemed like an eternity, Bubba Ho-Tep is slowly making its way into theaters across the country. Man, have I been looking forward to this movie. Yet despite some enormous expectations on my part, I was in no way disappointed by the film; in fact, it met or exceeded all my hopes for it. That the film is finally getting a release is some sort of miracle. That it is everything you dream an elderly Elvis versus redneck mummy movie could be and more is downright divine.
If the premise does not sound like your cup of tea, I implore you to look past the surface, because Bubba rewards you with a horror action comedy of surprising warmth and depth. Bruce Campbell - in a performance that equals his genius in the Evil Dead trilogy - plays an Elvis who made the entire world think he died while he wound up, through a series of events I won’t spoil, in a Texas nursing home, alone, old, and tired. Campbell, with the help of the script by director Don Coscarelli’s script (based on a Joe R. Lansdale story), really creates a believable, washed-up has-been of an Elvis, and there is some genuine weight to his struggles with old age and impotence. Mind you, he still creates a badass action hero like few others in modern film, but there is also bitterness and sadness mixed in with the bravado and one-liners (“Don’t make me use my stuff on ya baby!” Elvis declares with one hand still gripping his walker), and it’s all perfectly performed. This from the guy who wrote a book about himself called “If Chins Could Kill.” (Actually a great read, but I digress)
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The only person who believes Elvis is really Elvis is a black man named Jack (Ossie Davis) who claims to be John F. Kennedy, dyed black, lobotomized, and dumped in the nursing home, thanks to a Lyndon Johnson conspiracy. The two have a nice friendship, and it’s great to see Elvis, supposedly dead for decades, in a nursing home, disbelieving the guy who claims to be John F. Kennedy with painted skin. (“Jack, no offense, but President Kennedy was a white man.”) The two unlikely allies quickly notice that many of their fellow rest home denizens are passing away at a somewhat accelerated rate. Eventually, the signs point to the supernatural, and then an unlikely source: an Egyptian soul-sucking mummy. “Some kinda ‘Bubba Ho-Tep,’” Elvis calls him because of his taste in redneck fashion accessories, though the film never bothers to explain exactly why he dresses like that.
There are a few other minor plot holes, like the quirky rest home caretaker who seems to know about the mummy yet never gets to explain how or why, but likely these were explained in deleted scenes cut for the sake of the overall flow and pacing, which is uniformly superb. Coscarelli, working on what must have been a very small budget, uses music, lighting, and editing to create the horror and tension of the picture, while only rarely showing any sort of horror on screen. Really, the film spends more time delving into the struggle of the elderly in contemporary society than on the Mummy (which, we should add, is great!).
It’s pulp at its best, and reminds you that good B-moving making involves the most primal, intense elements of moviemaking. It’s just a fantastic little film, about friendship and heroics and sucking people’s souls out of their rectums. Once again, hail to the king, baby.