Bubba Ho-Tep (2003)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Ossie Davis/Jack Kennedy
Reggie Bannister/Rest Home Boss
As we all already knew, Elvis Presley (Campbell) isn’t really RIP, he’s actually ending his last “hiding” days in a retirement home in Texas. But when a soul-sucking Mummy invades his turf and starts feeding off his old timer roommates, The King gets “all shook up” in a bad way. He eventually tag-teams with paranoid Jack (Davis) who may or may not be John F. Kennedy and they both take a stand against the primitive Egyptian screwhead. Tighten up the walker screws and re-charge the electric wheel chair; Old. Young. They’re the ones whooping Cowboy Mummy ass!
Never, never fuck with The King! --- Elvis Aaron Presley
Today was a “Lethal Weapon” day for me; you know those days you don’t want to do shit, but stare at the walls with a glass of straight JD in one hand and a gun in the other? Yup, one of those. So I slapped "Bubba Ho-Tep" into my player, not even feeling like watching a damn movie, but having to since…hey…that’s one of my many jobs. It took about 2 minutes into this whacked adventure for me to drop the gun, forget my worries and for an earnest smile to grace my face again. Written and directed by the father of “Phantasm” Don Coscarelli, “Bubba Ho Tep” (coming to DVD on May 25, 2004) turned out to be one of the most unique and sincere pictures I’ve seen all year thus far. Thank you Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell! This movie was unadulterated magic!
WOW! Talk about big balls on this animal! Get this; the flick’s premise has an elderly Elvis Presley (Campbell) and a brother who might be JFK (Davis) fighting a soul-sucking Mummy at a retirement home. I know what you’re thinking; the possibilities for high camp are endless! Well, in an audacious move, "Bubba Ho-Tep", went against the more obvious route by never venturing into the “too easy” camp zone. Instead, it gave us a kooky ride, but also brought up all the themes and pathos that comes with old age. Who knew? I also loved how the film ingeniously used Elvis’s victory against impotence and the Mummy’s ruckus on his home as prompting elements to get him back on his feet...feeling alive again and on his way to redemption. Man, I was rooting for him like a Lakers tramp on nose candy!
The film’s dramatic impact was also reinforced thanks to everybody playing their parts in mucho grounded fashion. That was the main strength of the whole, in my opinion; both the amazing Ossie Davis and Campbell we’re so credible in their roles that they came across as REAL people even amidst the silly-willy circus they were in. That made me care about them on a very deep level and involved me in the storyline to a ludicrous degree. Bruce Campbell, in particular, totally bowled me over with his stellar showcase. I always knew that the hombre was royalty in his own right via his “Hail to The King” shtick as Ash (from "The Evil Dead" series) but I am now convinced that he is almost God-like. Bruce played the man with the burns, as just that, a man and although hints of Ash would surface now and then, I truly believed I was watching the TRUE Elvis Presley doing his thing for the bulk of the way.
Now don’t get me wrong, ghouls and ghoulettes, there was more than one jig to this dance! This baby wasn’t all thought-provoking themes and tissue wasting drama. Although to be honest, I did tear up a few times (yes, I’m as sensitive as a porn star's knob after a hard day’s work), I also laughed my "boomstick" off left, right, behind, front and center! If it wasn’t the crude “Kevin Smith would be proud” dialogue exchanges tearing me a new bung-hole, the uber freaking kool Elvis flashbacks dry whipping my butt or the witty narration sending me into giggle fits, it was the slew of circumstantial side-splitting bits popping out to kill me. You haven’t lived a full life until you’ve seen the King of Rock and Roll, use his walker as a deadly weapon, fiercely battle a flying Scarab, or pulling some groovy Kung Fu “stage” moves when faced against a deadly mummy. I was through the roof in laughter and then some!
The last spice in this mad dish was the engaging horror quotient with a fashion-conscious Mummy running amuck leading the way. Admittedly, I wasn’t too afraid of the big lug -- the Mummy design itself was fairly simple (man in suit) -- and I knew damn well that The King would always prevail. But that’s not to say there weren’t some creepy moments within the film. Coscarelli put out a couple of expertly built up and executed spooky sequences that had me gawking in admiration at the skill and the macabre beauty before me (Elvis’ first meeting with the Mummy is a great example of that). All that to say, don’t look to be scared out of your wits, but do expect to relish the gorgeous eerie moments served up in hefty doses.
Do I have any beefs with this Bubba? Not really. Some peeps have complained about the slowness of the picture, but I always enjoyed the company I was keeping and therefore didn’t mind the even pace, which at the same time, kind of echoed the “rhythm” of our two aged heroes. I guess my only minor qualm would be that one of the film’s horror elements wasn’t milked to its fullest. I’m talking about the evil “Scarabs” that were introduced early on but then totally dropped out of sight. I wanted to see the buggers in action during the end confrontation! I’m sure budget had something to do with that. Inconsequential peeves aside, "Bubba Ho-Tep" was the coolest (all about the two Elvis’ meeting), the funniest (“From now on, I'll lube my OWN crankshaft!”), touching (the Priscilla Presley stuff got me) and unique creation I’ve seen in eons. This flick is truly a statement on how “low budget” films are where the horror heart truly is. Thank you. Thank you very much! THE KING LIVES!
We get light blood, a messy wound and green scarab blood. I must also prop the KNB age makeup on Elvis! That’s some fine work! I bought it! Having said that, red grub is not what this rockabilly was about.
In my opinion, Bruce Campbell (Elvis) gave the performance of his career where not only was he sharp and kool as Ash, but he also handled the drama of the role like a champ, selling his rendition of an aged Elvis hardcore. Bruce my man! This Rum Dinger is for you! CHEERS! Ossie Davis (Jack) was simply side-splitting as the JFK might-be and his chemistry with Campbell was beyond engaging! AMAZING! It’s not a Coscarelli movie without Reggie Bannister (Rest Home Boss) in the house. It was great to see good ol' Reg on the screen again, even with his limited screen time. Ella Joyce (Nurse) was winning in her natural performance while Heidi Marnhout’s (Callie) bent over undie shot was as priceless as The King’s gold-chains! She also knew how to act too! Bi bonus!
T & A
We get a quick pair of Egyptian hooters during a flashback and Heidi Marnhout bends over to shows us her bootie (in undies). The ladies get Bruce Campbell being Bruce Campbell when he’s not channeling Elvis Presley. You don’t need nudity with that on display!
Coscarelli went all out “style wise” via fast motion, show-stopping slow motion, creative shots up the ying-yang, quick cuts, infectious dark atmosphere and bang-on steady cam shots. The cinematography (by Adam Janeiro) on hand was also exquisite. PERFECT!
The Brian Taylor ("Frailty") score was of the Rock/Blues variety and sported some slick Egyptian-like jive to it at times. The tunes often elevated the situation by tapping into the intended emotion and boosting it up! NICE!
"Bubba Ho-Tep" was the koolest, most innovative and stirring film I’ve seen this year! Granted, the flick’s unconventional choices and tempo won’t appeal to everybody, but I give a Maltin’s ass-- it appealed to me and that’s what mattered! In this horror world of sequels, remakes, re-imaginings, cop-outs, sell-outs, shameless trend driven products and copycats, I can’t emphasize enough how refreshing it was to see a truly novel piece of work which fought against a low budget, took big chances and succeeded in the bulk of its ambitions. It should be said that "Bubba Ho-Tep" also acted as a dignified and classy love letter to the man that was (and still is) The King of Rock 'n Roll: Elvis Presley. Shite, with some minor tinkering this bad boy could’ve easily been a straight forward “what if” Elvis drama! That’s how riveting it was! With that alone, they got my vote! Now please tell me that Elvis hasn’t left the building! I WANT MORE!
Two sequels, one called "Bubba Nosferatu" and the other "Bubba Sasquatch" have been mentioned by the filmmakers as possibilities if the original makes enough dough. It better freaking happen!
This film will be available on DVD on May 25, 2004. Click here to pre-order.
This movie is based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale.