October 31, 2009

Rabid Rewind: "Bubba Ho-Tep"

Title: Bubba Ho-Tep
Starring: Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis
Directed by: John Coscarelli
Originally Released: 2002
Genre: Horror/Comedy

I'm not sure how readily available this cult hit is in your neck of the woods, but I had a heck of a time tracking it down. Mind you, it wasn't on my radar again until very recently, but I was wondering if I'd ever get to watch it.

And that's the thing with Bruce Campbell's movies; if you don't have cable or satellite with a slew of specialty channels, chances are you're not gonna see it on TV. I don't subscribe to NetFlix or Blockbuster either, so that's out the window. But, I can thankfully count on my library to lend me a copy. Odd, that, considering horror movies are not exactly plentiful in my local libraries catalog of available movies.

So, back in September I borrowed Bubba Ho-Tep, ready to enjoy some good old-fashion Bruce Campbell goodness. After 90 minutes, I had to accept the fact that this was not the Bruce Campbell I had come to know and love through the Evil Dead series. Not to say I didn't enjoy this movie--I did--but there's this aura about the guy, this charisma that's unmistakable. Here, Bruce Campbell disappeared, and he actually gave a damned good version of Elvis Presley.

I may have lost those of you, just now, who have never heard of this movie. Long story, short: Elvis is alive, an old man now and laid up in a rundown nursing home in east Texas. Fed up with the drugs, fame, and all the b.s. of being the "King of Rock," he traded places with an Elvis impersonator--a "Prince and the Pauper" sort of thing. Only the impersonator died on the toilet and the King got stuck living the life of obscurity, though he made peace with that.

Okay, that's where the story starts. A bit weird right off the bat, but it doesn't take long for it to get a whole lot weirder. Elvis' best friend, Jack, played by the incomparable Ossie David, is President John F. Kennedy. Though, no one truly believes he's really Kennedy except him, since Kennedy was assassinated ... and
Kennedy wasn't black. Jack's explains it all to Elvis with a conspiracy theory that would make Glenn Beck shake his head in disbelief.

Weird enough for you yet? How about a resurrected mummy stranded in east Texas, dressed in cowboy garb, and sucking the souls of his elderly victims--he stalks the old age home for his easy prey--through whatever orifice proves most convenient at the time ... and he leaves hieroglyphic graffiti in the men's room.

Now things are getting weird.

The movie's based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, which was the driving reason for me to start looking for this movie again, since I've yet to read any of Lansdale's work. If this is what his imagination comes up with, then I definitely need to find one of his novels or short story collections.

The movie is low budget, but they make the most of what they have to work with. There seems to be an affection put into the production of this movie, something sorely lacking in the standard Hollywood fare. And to see the peculiar pairing of Campbell and Davis on screen is too good to pass up.

Apparently, Hollywood wasn't keen on the story because it dealt with two protagonists that weren't teenagers or twenty-somethings. Fearing no one would want to see the movie, unable to empathize with the characters because of some immeasurable generation gap. Go figure. I think my thirty-something age gives me away as the opposite, since I'll watch this movie over and over again--a smile upon my face the whole time--rather than sit through an insufferable performance from Shia Labeouf or Ashley Tisdale.

The story feels a bit slow at first, but it's kind of necessary in order to introduce the characters and make them believable and relatable. And the comedy elements really help to temper the scenes lacking suspense or action.

If you're in the mood for something outside the mainstream, defies genre, and earn some bragging points for watching a soon-to-be cult classic, I say you ought to give Bubba Ho-Tep a try. It may just surprise you.


  1. This was a great movie...supposedly they're working on a prequel called 'Bubba Nosferatu'. And you should definitely check out Lansdale's stuff. That man can write.

  2. "Bubba Nosferatu"? I'd watch that, for sure. And Lansdale is definitely on my wish list, with "Freezer Burn" being at the top. I have read reviews that praise that one heavily.