Bubba Ho-Tep

Make no mistake about it, Bubba Ho-Tep is a B-movie, and proud of it. The difference? This B-movie is better than many mainstream movies. It is certainly has the most original premise of the year: Elvis and JFK are alive and living in a rest home in Texas, where they contend with humongous cockroaches and battle against an ancient mummy. Yes, it is odd, and it sure is hilarious. Based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale (Dead in the West, The Job) and written and directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm IV, Phantasm III), Bubba Ho-Tep also manages to successfully navigate the treacherous waters between the poignant and the ridiculous. Still not enough? How about a wonderful performance from cult actor Bruce Campbell.

Because of the types of movies Campbell (Serving Sara, Spider-Man) is usually in, he doesn't get that much respect. When he does appear in larger movies, it is typically in a smaller role. However, he always looks like he's having fun, and, like Bubba Ho-Tep, doesn't take himself that seriously. His work can be cheesy, but it is purposefully cheesy, instead of accidentally so. The premise here is that Elvis (Campbell) never died. He switched places with an Elvis impersonator because he began tiring of the drugs and fame. Later, the impersonator died, leaving him to a future of obscurity (well, he still performed as a fake Elvis). As for Kennedy (Ossie Davis, Dinosaur, Doctor Dolittle), his skin was died black, and here he sits now. Elvis spends most of his time in bed, due to, uh, a painful growth on his penis. This gives him time to look back on life and ponder his mistakes. He wonders about Priscilla and Lisa Marie and other things, and the script is surprisingly deep here. It is moments like this that give Bubba Ho-Tep some heft. Of course, after this, Elvis battles with a gigantic cockroach.

And then the story slowly emerges. Elvis keeps hearing some strange noises, and after some investigation with Kennedy, discover that an ancient Egyptian mummy is sucking the souls from the elderly in the rest home (sucking them from a very interesting place). The two decide that they must stop him. Bubba Ho-Tep does take a while to get moving, but once it does things move pretty quickly. The beginning is more introspective, with Elvis in bed sulking. Coscarelli does this so that the reasons for his renewal are clearer. Basically, Elvis is bored. He needs something to do, and mummy hunting is his ticket back to youth.

Bubba Ho-Tep was made for a fraction of the production of other movies, and parts of it show. Nevertheless, Coscarelli typically makes movies for minimal amounts, and uses everything effectively. The special effects are not great, but serviceable. The make-up job on Campbell is decent, as is Ho-Tep (Bob Ivy, Phantasm IV, Dark Tides) himself. But the important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter how much money people put into a movie. If it doesn't have a story, then all the money in the world cannot save it. Coscarelli actually put a lot of thought into many of the jokes he uses. There are Elvis jokes, JKF jokes, and mummy jokes. There are also some of the funniest subtitles in recent memory. Bubba Ho-Tep is definitely worth searching out.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief violent images.

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