Bubba Ho-Tep

The idea had B-movie gold written all over it: Elvis Presley didn't die, but instead switched places with the best impersonator he could find so he could live out his days in peace. Only, the plan didn't go so well and now he's just another old man in a nursing home with a "growth on his pecker" and his only friend is a confused black man convinced he's John F. Kennedy. Then, of course, there's the 3,000-year-old mummy stalking the other residents, sucking their souls out their a.... You know, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's get back to the mad mental case that concocted this story, shall we?

Don Coscarelli, the writer-director-producer-freak behind the mind-bending multi-dimensional alien zombie picture, Phantasm, and all 3 sequels. He also did the campy-yet-creepy Beastmaster (those bird people gave me no small number of childhood nightmares with their digestive hugs). The man knows his way around a smaller budget and frequently crafts quirkily interesting movies, so when I hear that the was teaming with no less than the King of B-Movies, Bruce Campbell (Elvis, a role he was born to play), and veteran actor Ossie Davis (as J.F.K), I'm all kinds of eager to check it out. Besides, there's a mummy in a cowboy hat!

By the time I'd gotten around to seeing it for the first time, Bubba had already won a handful of awards in the independent and genre film circuits. Plus other critics had given their stamps of approval, so my anticipation only continued to grow. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, but the end result wasn't it...well, not exactly. Where I expected an action packed campy romp, I got a very rich and interesting character piece, with a captivating performance by Mr. Campbell, and good chemistry with Mr. Davis.

Eventually a giant scarab and the titular mummy show up and get with the face-eating and soul-sucking, but by the time said evil finally makes an appearance and the film begins to ramp up, you can almost forget what type of movie you came to see. This is not to say it's a bad movie, far from it. It's much more skillfully put together than just about any others of similar ilk. But it is deliberately paced in its establishment of the characters before it deals with the monster. Which is part of the problem.

The film doesn't entirely know what it wants to be. Is it a character drama? Is it a silly yet sometimes scary horror movie? It's not that these can't co-exist in a movie, that's not the case at all. It's that these pieces at times feel as if they're being culled from various different movies that the filmakers wanted to shoot, and crammed into this one. It doesn't entirely work, but it's still a fun ride.

But not a fun Cavalcade ride. For a group of people gathered around the screen, drinks in hand, deliberate pacing leads to distraction and boredom. While I love the movie for all its beautiful weirdness and loving care given to its characters, It isn't the best kick-off to a Cavalcade event we've ever had. If you do screen it, make sure it's not the opener. It's better served as a second or third movie, when the crowd is more relaxed.

Hmm. All that, and I never did get back to from where the Mummy sucks the souls...

Leave a Reply