BUBBA HO-TEP(director/writer: Don Coscarelli; screenwriter: based on the short story by Joe R. Lansdale; cinematographer: Adam Janeiro; editors: Scott J. Gill/Donald Milne; music: Brian Tyler; cast: Bruce Campbell (Elvis Presley/Sebastian Haff), Ossie Davis (Jack Kennedy), Bob Ivy (Bubba Ho-Tep), Ella Joyce (Massaging Nurse), Heidi Marnhout (Callie), Daniel Roebuck (Hearse Driver), Daniel Schweiger (Hearse Driver); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Don Coscarelli/Jason R. Savage; Silver Sphere Corporation/American Cinematheque; 2002)
“The moment the plot takes hold, this most likable film unmercifully dies.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director/writer Don Coscarelli (“Phantasm”) adapts this low-budget horror comedy from Joe R. Lansdale’s thin story. Though it had a few guffaws, it mainly sputtered with tired erection and toilet jokes and an offbeat plotline that was too ridiculous to pay close attention to. In its more serious moments it tried to say sagacious things about getting old, pop culture icons, and the nuttiness of assassination theories, but instead it seemed to have its heart more set on speculating on Elvis’s vainly drawn inner thoughts and featuring his jumpsuits. That outrageous costume became the King’s trademark in the 1970s, where flamboyantly he dressed the part of a superhero and parodied his own persona. Supposedly, each jumpsuit was only worn once because it couldn’t be cleaned and after the performance would become too sweaty to wear again.
The title has to do with the film’s mystery plot of an ancient Egyptian mummy roaming the halls of a rest home in East Texas with evil designs, as in his need to stay alive he sucks out the souls of those living there. Bubba stands for a cracker, as the mummy appears in many disguises from a cowboy to a giant cockroach. Ho-Tep stands for a descendent of the Pharaoh.
The film opens in the Shady Rest Convalescent Home in rural Mud Creek, Texas, where lies cranky Elvis impersonator Sebastian Haff (Bruce Campbell). But in truth the real Elvis got tired of being the King, so he switched places with impersonator Sebastian. When the impersonator died, the real “Elvis” was still alive and living in a trailer park. While the real Elvis was playing the part of the impersonator he broke his hip and fell into a coma during a performance some twenty years ago and ended up in this East Texas rest home. Now the irascible 70-year old Elvis confronts his aging problems, a growth on his pecker, inability to get aroused, and his despondency. Also in the home is a delusional African-American JFK (Ossie Davis), who claims he was dyed black as a disguise and is the president.
When there are a series of deaths in the home, Jack figures out that an evil mummy escaping from a nearby bus overturned in a lake is the culprit behind the deaths. The mummy attacks during the night to suck up the souls of the nursing home patients for survival. The geriatric duo team up to stop the awesome Bubba Ho-Tep (Bob Ivy) before he can get their souls, fearing they won’t be able to get to heaven or be resurrected if he succeeds.
The moment the plot takes hold, this mostly likable film unmercifully dies. Bruce Campbell makes an excellent Elvis impersonator, while Ossie Davis does a nice turn as his nut-job sidekick–playing the role in an understated fashion and with perfect timing to draw the most he could from the situation.
REVIEWED ON 3/2/2004 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ