2002 - R - 92 Mins.
|Director: Don Coscarelli|
|Producer: Don Coscarelli, Jason R. Savage|
|Written By: Don Coscarelli|
|Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Daniel Roebuck, Bob Ivey |
|Review by: JK Radtke
Don’t mess with the King, baby. Not even if you’re some soul suckin’, boot wearin’ Mummy from the good ole days. ‘Cause the King…he’ll kick your butt!
Hey Bubba...what's a Ho-tep?
I had heard about BUBBA HO-TEP a good year and a half before I actually had the opportunity to see it. Upon hearing of its existence, I couldn’t help but feel those anxious butterflies begin to flutter within my rotund belly. I mean, all of the necessary ingredients for total awesomeness were there: Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster) both wrote and directed this little indie flick; Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness) starred as The King himself, Elvis Presley; and did I mention it had a soul suckin’, boot wearin’ Mummy?<br><br>
Spice it up with an old black man (Ossie Davis) who thinks he’s the former President John F. Kennedy; toss them all into a creepy convalescent home in Texas, and I’d almost be willing to bet my life that you’ve got a certified winner! Sure, it’s not the typical dog-crap we’ve all become accustomed to chowing down on every weekend, but hey…even when discussing dog-crap, change is still good!
Looking back on the film now (as I write this review), I can honestly say that BUBBA HO-TEP is not for everybody. It’s a niche film created by a niche filmmaker, and adapted from a short story written by cult (see: niche) author, Joe R. Landsale. You’re not going to see this flick at your big movie houses, nor will you likely see much made of it on network television. While RUSH HOUR and all of its horrible sequels is hyped on Memorial Day weekend by TNT for it’s WORLD TELEVISION PREMIERE, BUBBA HO-TEP will quietly be being played on IFC (Independent Film Channel) or Sundance once, maybe twice if you’re lucky.
Cult icon, Bruce Campbell is Elvis Presley, the King! Trapped in an old folks home in east Texas, we’re introduced through narrative dialogue that is both funny and disturbing, touching on subject matter that at first feels out of place, but ultimately helps to establish the “anything goes, no one is safe” tone that Coscarelli carries throughout the rest of the film.
Campbell’s portrayal of Elvis is quite possibly the best ever captured on film. Instead of the usual, “Hey, I’m Elvis and this is my life…” storyline that everyone from Kurt Russell (ELVIS) to Rick Peters (ELVIS MEETS NIXON) have done to death, Campbell ignores all of the frivolous nonsense and immediately takes us deep into the man’s tortured psyche. And, it is here that the actual movie really takes place.
You see, while the plot of the film is: Elvis Presley and JFK do battle against a soul suckin’ country Mummy praying on old folks in an old folks home, the real movie is simply a character study, with us watching these two old guys banter back and forth while these strange supernatural happenings go down around them.
Unfortunately, this is exactly where many people might find fault. There is so much character study, and so little actual storyline, those looking for a fun ride by walk away disappointed. BUBBA HO-TEP gives a whole new meaning to the word “slow.” The film crawls at about the same pace as our heroes can move. So, if you’re not completely in love with the characters by the end of the first act, you’re probably going to be kicking yourself for even initiating contact with this film.
Another downside some might find is the lack of actual scares, or laughs within the movie. With a premise such as this, one could easily assume a laugh feast; yet with the film being as dark as it is, that same person could easily expect a bucket load of legitimate scares! Surprisingly, what we end up with is a balance of both, but that balance is so miniscule, it barely registers on the radar.
And yet, with its faults, there is an unmistakable charm that goes with BUBBA, that driven by its powerful performances; and ultimately, it is the performances that will make or break this film for those who see it.
If you’re like me, and can appreciate great performances and characters over a lacking plot, you should really dig this film! If you absolutely need a cohesive storyline no matter what, in order to be entertained, you’d be better served just ignoring this little movie all together.
If you ask me, BUBBA HO-TEP is worth your time, if only for one viewing. After that, you can put a bullet in its head and bury it out in the backyard with your dead pets. At least then you know you tried ingesting something truly original, and you didn’t like it.