Some B-movies started out to be A-movies and missed. Others tried just a little
too hard and overdid something, like campy humor. But every once in a while, a
group of talented individuals sets out to make a B-movie and gets everything just
right: action, thrills, humor, and a good story, well-told. Bubba Ho-Tep
gets it just right.
Based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-Tep is the story of a 68
year-old Elvis, living out his days in a nursing home in East Texas. No one in
the nursing home has much to live for, so no one looks askance when the residents
start dying. No one, that is, but one of the residents, an elderly black man who
fully believes that he's JFK. Jack believes that a mummy is stalking the home
and feeding on the souls of its residents. He manages to convince Elvis that the
mummy is real, and they set out to destroy the mummy.
Bubba Ho-Tep hits all the right notes, starting with the opening titles.
The screenplay is so faithful to the novella that I recognized whole chunks of
Lansdale's dialogue. Even the hieroglyphics were the same! The music sets the
mood perfectly. The movie is well-paced and strikes just the right balance of
horror and humor.
But the key to the movie's success is the performances. Bruce Campbell is a revelation
as Elvis, really losing himself in the role: the gestures, the tone of voice,
everything is spot on. For all its inherent silliness, this is one of the most
respectful portraits of Elvis you'll ever see. Campbell's fine performance is
balanced by an equally stunning performance by Ossie Davis as Jack. Davis lends
an air of quiet authority to Jack, making his outlandish beliefs ring true despite
their apparent absurdity.
Bubba Ho-Tep doesn't have a distributor yet, and that's a crying shame,
because it really deserves a wider audience. If you like Coscarelli's other films,
you'll like this one. If you like Joe R. Lansdale's work, you'll like it. And
if you're a Bruce Campbell fan, you'll walk away in awe, because you never even
suspected that he was this good. If Bubba Ho-Tep comes to a theatre or
a film festival near you (and when I say "near," please keep in mind that I drove
three and a half hours to see a 9:30 pm show, knowing I had to drive back and
go to work the next day), don't miss it. You won't be sorry.