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08.23.2017
Bubba Ho-Tep (2003)
Movie Review by The Mortician
04.20.10

Bubba Ho-Tep (2003) Okay, here's the plot: an ancient Egyptian entity is killing rest home residents in a small Texas community. He's basically stealing their souls to give himself more and more life. Two aging and forgotten residents in the home, one who believes he is Elvis Presley and one who thinks he's John F. Kennedy, see what is happening and team up to stop the monstrous soul eater...

Based on a short story by acclaimed Southern Gothic Horror scribe Joe R. Lansdale, this offbeat little movie is really enjoyable. Genre favorite Bruce Campbell plays the Elvis role to perfection and Ossie Davis (!) takes on the role of a "black JFK" with perfection. Are these characters the real deal or are they nut jobs? Basically, it's up to the viewer to decide, but in a world where there's soul sucking Egyptian monsters preying on old folks...pretty much anything is possible, right?

The plot is ludicrous but what works is the characters and the heart of the film. It's not the cliche monster storyline that carries things, it's the endearing performances of two very committed actors in bizarre parts coupled with a commentary on older folks being forgotten and left to die with no purpose in rest homes that keep the movie going. Not to mention the whole "I saw Elvis!" mythology that is riffed on throughout.

Best viewed as a drama with very light comedy and horror elements, BUBBA HO-TEP keeps your attention and draws you into the character's predicaments. Campbell is spectacular and believable as "The King Of Rock", right down to his voice and mannerisms, possibly the best Elvis portrayal captured on film yet (and some of that credit has to go to the great but subtle makeup work KNB did on him to help sell the package). It's definitely one of Campbell's best acting performances---ever. And Ossie Davis is also incredibly believable---that he believes, anyway---that he is John F. Kennedy. Kudos to both performers!

Director Don Coscarelli, of PHANTASM fame, shows an obvious love and passion for the material, letting the story and characters play themselves out until the interesting (but a bit overdone---TWO fire gags with a man on fire within a few minutes of each other felt like overkill to me, one would've been sufficient) ending.

So if you have an open mind and are looking for a character-based film that really makes you think...and ponder where you'll end up if you make it into your late winter years...mixed with humor and a wild little monster-on-the prowl scenario...you'll like this movie just fine. Definitely a labor of love for Mr. Coscarelli and everyone involved, it's great to see a genre project made after 2002 this exciting that isn't a remake or a sequel.

Directed by Don Coscarelli

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