out of Five
Running time: 92
A cult classic in the making, this is a sharply written, surprisingly moving little film with a terrific performance by Bruce Campbell.
Bubba Ho-Tep has ‘cult classic’ written all over it – it’s written and directed by Don Coscarelli (who made cult horror flick Phantasm) and stars ‘cult actor’ Bruce Campbell (Ash from the Evil Dead series, plus just about every movie Sam Raimi’s ever made). As Elvis. Fighting a Mummy. Frankly, what’s not to love?
Rest-Home Elvis And Black JFK Fight Evil Mummy…
Based on the short story by “cult author” (it says here) Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-Tep opens with Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) wasting away in an East Texas rest home, bedridden and bemoaning the state of a particularly nasty growth on the Presley pecker.
Elvis tries to tell his sassy nurse (Ella Joyce) that he really is The King – he switched places with an ambitious Elvis impersonator, hoping to find a new life away from the media glare – but, unsurprisingly, she doesn’t believe him. In fact, the only person who does believe him is fellow resident Jack (Ossie Davis), who also believes that he is John F. Kennedy and that “they” disguised him as a black man.
However, when a Mummy is accidentally unleashed in the rest home and wanders around sucking the souls of the other residents, it falls to Elvis and JFK to team up and take on the supernatural evil that is Bubba Ho-Tep…
Campbell could have been born to play Elvis – he completely nails both the voice and the mannerisms, even under a hefty amount of old age make-up. It’s a superb performance – if there were any justice, Campbell would get an Oscar nomination. Davis is equally good and the pair make a great screen couple – their friendship is genuinely touching.
Excellent Script And Fabulous Performance From Campbell
The script is excellent and it’s packed full of quotable lines, the best of which are a shade too risqué to be repeated here. The effects are pretty good too, considering the budget limitations. In particular, the Mummy-related insects have a pleasingly Cronenberg-like aspect about them; Elvis’s battle with one of them is a definite highlight.
Bubba Ho-Tep isn’t quite the full-on schlock-fest you might be expecting - in fact, it’s relatively short on action, and the actual showdown, though funny, is rather anti-climactic. Instead, the film emerges as a surprisingly moving story about death, dignity and doing what needs to be done. (Noting, in the process, that anything’s better than meeting your maker while on the toilet).
In short, Bubba Ho-Tep may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s an extremely enjoyable, genuinely original film that’s worth seeing for Campbell’s performance alone. Recommended.