bubba ho-tep | don coscarelli | bruce campbell | ossie davis | ella joyce | mummy | comedy | fantasy | mystery | united states | based on | short story | joe r. lansdale | reggie bannister | heidi marnhout | bob ivy | edith jefferson | larry pennell | daniel roebuck
Film: Bubba Ho-Tep
Director: Don Coscarelli
Writer: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis and Ella Joyce
This film I’ll be honest when I first learned about it, I rolled my eyes. My intrigue grew though when I saw that it was written and directed by Don Coscarelli. He’s able to do soe interesting things with odd subject material so I gave it a chance. It came up though during my run through of the horror encyclopedia I’m working through. I have now gave it a second watch as part of the Summer Challenge Series for the 2000’s over on the Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis here is Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and a black “JFK” (Ossie Davis) stay in a nursing home where nothing happens – until a wayward Egyptian mummy comes and sucks out the old people’s souls thru their a-holes. The two decide to fight back.
We begin getting the definition of Ho-Tep and Bubba. This really does set the tone for the rest of the movie as well. It then shifts over to old footage from an archeological dig in Egypt. We see that a mummy has been found and will be taken to a museum.
The movie then takes us to where we will spend most of our time. There is a man who looks like Elvis Presley, just much older, needs to walk with a walker and is mostly bedridden. This man claims to be the real Elvis, but we learn through his nurse, Ella Joyce, that his name is Sebastian Haff. We are gives his back-story during the film that the real Elvis traded with the best impersonator in the world, Haff, so he could live a quieter life. There was an accident destroying their contract and Haff died. In his advanced age, he’s been in this nursing home, just passing the time until he passes away.
Elvis has a roommate, played by Harrison Young and he’s not doing too well and he passes away. He does get to meet his daughter, Callie (Heidi Marnhout). There’s an interesting interaction here though where she bends over in front of Elvis and he can see up her skirt. She doesn’t see him as a man or as a threat. Elvis has pretty much given up his will to move forward.
It all changes that night though. There’s an elderly woman, played by Edith Jefferson. She is attacked by a giant scarab bug. Before she can kill it, she sees a man is in her room watching her. He is played by Bob Ivy.
Elvis does a lot of hallucinating and most of it is people coming into his room to do their normal jobs. Sometimes it is a person standing in his doorway, staring in at him and sometimes it is his daughter who he hasn’t seen in a long time. Elvis wakes up from one of these at night and sees the elderly woman. He is then attacked by a similar bug and he kills it with a fork. He goes searching where he ends up in John F. Kennedy’s room. The problem is that Jack is an black. He claims that his death was a conspiracy, that he is still alive and that they dyed his skin to prevent people from knowing the truth. The first time they meet, Jack is knocked out and face down on the ground. Something attacked him in the room.
With these weird things going on, Elvis gets an erection when the nurse is performing her treatment on him. It has given him a new lease on life. Together with Jack, they decide to put an end to this mummy that has a buffet of the older folks living in this home.
I will admit that this film was pretty enjoyable though. I thought I’d come in not buying the identities of Elvis or Jack, but as you listen to them both, it makes you wonder if they are telling the truth. They are both such great actors so it really is kudos to them. The possibility with their stories adds to it.
The concept of the movie is also really interesting as well. Since Bubba Ho-tep is a mummy that needs souls to live on, what better place than a nursing home. The people there are dying fairly regular to other places so no one would question it. It does get a bit outrageous with some things, but that is the comedy that you have there. I do love the care that was put in here having things like tanna leaves which comes from the Universal mummy series. In that respect, it almost feels like a sequel in an odd way. I also enjoyed the back story of how it ended up where it did.
The setting for this also really works for me. I’ve already said that this is a place that people are left to die. If someone sees Bubba, they’re not necessarily going to be believed as many have dementia or they’re just old. Now the movie does state that the stronger the soul, the longer this creature will leave. There isn’t a lot of fight to live here, so it needs to constantly feed, but it seems like it has an endless run of people coming and going for sure. I really like that idea.
I’ll shift this over to the acting as it really is a two man show. We’re following mostly Campbell and he just does a great Elvis. I just love the arrogance despite his situation he is in currently. He is so convincing that I really believe he could be the king. Davis is also really good in making me believe that he is JFK and part of his cover was to be dyed black. There are a few times that I question it, but that’s just what we’re getting here. Joyce is fun as the nurse, I liked to see Reggie Bannister as the administrator for the place and Daniel Roebuck as a hearse driver who is there regularly. The rest of the cast including Ivy as the monster are solid to round this out for what was needed.
The last thing I really want to go over would be the effects. For the most part, I think they’re fine. The mummy itself doesn’t look great, but I give it a pass as they went practical. I like that since it is eating souls when it walks past the lights, they flicker so we know that it is messing with the electricity that I buy. I do hate some of the comedic things they do with the hieroglyphics. It is talking so they pop up on the screen and it felt too cheesy. Aside from that, I think the cinematography is fine and they do some sped up photography as well that works to progress things.
Now with that said, I thought this was a fine movie for what they were going for after the first viewing. I think this second viewing I appreciate it a bit more. The acting really sells the back-story of both of these guys who think they’re famous people. The idea of a soul eating mummy in a retirement home is pretty creative as well. There are some slight issues I have with the effects, but not enough to ruin things. The soundtrack also fit for what was needed. It doesn’t necessarily stick out for me though. I’d say that my rating went up and I’d say that this is now an above average movie for me. It just isn’t necessarily for me.
My Rating: 7 out of 10