Don't be cruel
Bruce Campbell is best known for his role as Ash from the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness movies. His role in the USA Network television show Burn Notice has brought Bruce Campbell's brand of wackiness to a wider audience. With a wide array of movies and television appearances, Bruce Campbell has always essentially played “Bruce Campbell” similar to how Tom Cruise always plays “Tom Cruise” in a movie. The situations may change, but you're pretty much getting the same guy in just about every movie. That's OK because Bruce Campbell is so entertaining. Sometimes you forget how good of an actor he actually can be. Today's review is a special request for my dad. If you would like to request a movie for me to review, please leave me a comment or send a tweet to @365DaysofHorror.
Bubba Ho-Tep is a 2002 horror comedy, based on the story by Joe Lansdale, starring Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, My Name Is Bruce) as Elvis Presley. In the 1970's, Elvis became disillusioned with his fame and wanted a way out. He went down to Texas and met Sebastian Haff, an Elvis impersonator. They agreed to switch places, leaving the real Elvis just enough money to get buy and a contract to switch back if he ever wanted. A barbecue accident led to Elvis's trailer exploding, burning up the contract and any proof that he is the real Elvis Presley. Flash forward to present day, an elderly Elvis is living in an old-age home in eastern Texas. No one believes that he is the real Elvis, save for John F. “Jack” Kennedy (Ossie Davis, Malcolm X, Do The Right Thing) an African-American man who believes that he is the former President. Elvis has very little hope and even less meaning since his ex-wife and daughter don't even know he is there. Residents of the retirement home start to die and one night, Elvis is attacked by a giant scarab. He stabs it with a fork and burns it on an electric heater. The next night, Jack is attacked by a mummy who tries to suck his soul out of his body. Elvis eventually sees the mummy, dubbed Bubba Ho-Tep, and has a strange psychological vision of the mummy's past. All of this mystery and intrigue renews Elvis's interest in life so he and Jack begin investigating. During a museum tour of an Egyptian mummy, thieves stole the bus carrying the artifacts, but crashed it in the river outside the retirement home during a storm. With no one believing who they are or what is going on, it's up to Elvis and Jack to stop Bubba Ho-Tep. Will they be able to survive this soul-sucking monster?
Hell, I'd vote for them
Offbeat and original is probably the best way to describe Bubba Ho-Tep. It is an interesting choice to have an elderly Elvis and an African-American play President Kennedy. By doing so, this allowed the movie to take on a comedic air without resorting to jokes or slapstick. As you can tell, this isn't your typical horror or comedy movie. The horror doesn't pick up until about half-way through the movie, with the first part relying more in introspection and good old-fashioned character development. This extended character development is poignant and quite sad for a horror/comedy movie. The movie does border on depressing at certain points, far more than your average scary movie. The story is balanced by a good amount of comedy, most of which is generally funny. There were a few scenes with workers carrying out dead bodies which were supposed to be funny, but just didn't elicit any laughs. In terms of horror, there are a few flashes of fear, but nothing is particularly scary. If anything, the prospect of dying alone and forgotten in an old-age home is far scarier than any monster. I suppose that's the underlying message of the entire movie, but we could have used some more scares.
The best part about the movie is Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. If you didn't know Bruce Campbell was in this movie, you might actually not know he is playing Elvis. The makeup is good and Bruce is incredibly convincing in his role. After all these years of “Bruce being Bruce,” it's refreshing to see him in an iconic, if unexpected, role. Ossie Davis is great as well, pulling off a good comedic foil to Campbell's Elvis. The action is decent, with the final 15 minutes serving as the main apex. The mummy itself looks good and I actually would have liked to see more of it. Director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster) does a good job of capturing Joe Lansdale's story while being able to put it in a believable perspective. Coscarelli captures Elvis's despair very well and even if a soul-sucking mummy wasn't involved, this still would have been a compelling watch. My one complaint with the movie is certain scenes are chopped and sped up. Visually, it's just not pleasing.
Thank you. Thank you, very much.
Bubba Ho-Tep is a fun movie for horror and non-horror fans alike. More emphasis is put on acting and storytelling than action and violence. If you need lots of scares and blood, this movie isn't for you. If you like to think and feel, you'll get a lot of out Bubba Ho-Tep. Bruce Campbell is excellent as Elvis Presley, to the point where you may not even realize it's Bruce Campbell behind the makeup and hair. Ossie Davis is quite good as well, capping off a movie with a sly sense of humor. The horror portion of the movie is decent, but it's not the real focus. Bubba Ho-Tep is a good movie through and through.