"I feel awful for the video store guy who has to pigeonhole this great flick"
Don Coscarelli: The Beastmaster and all the goopy goodness of the Phantasm franchise. Bruce Campbell: Cult actor extraordinaire and one of the industry's most shockingly underrated actors. Put the two together and you're bound for something special, right? Damn straight.Tear yourself away from the multiplex garbage for about 55 seconds and try to wrap your movie-addicted brain around this concept:
Elvis Presley is alive and (relatively) well and living in a Southern Texas convalescent home. His best pal is a lovable old black guy who insists he's actually John F. Kennedy Jr. Together the pair must do battle with a horrific soul-sucking Mummy before the creature devours every senior citizen in sight.
OK, now that all the wimps and fans of Hollywood Formula have clicked off of this review I can tell the adventuresome movie freaks something important:
Bubba Ho-Tep is a movie you absolutely must see. Think about the last time you saw a genre flick that actually impressed you with its originality.
Unfortunately the jury is still out as to when you will get to see this fantastic little flick, as Coscarelli and company still have yet to find a distributor. Some attribute this difficulty to the estate of Presley, a clueless band of moneymakers who clearly cannot see that Bruce Campbell's personfication of The King is done with nothing but love and admiration.
One can only assume the estate isn't getting a piece of the pie, hence the struggles. There's simply no other reason to explain how an outfit like Lion's Gate or Artisan hasn't yet picked this flick up for (at least limited) distribution.
But fear not; if those who've seen the movie already have their way, Bubba Ho-Tep will see the light of day sometime in the near future.
The plot is as funny and touching as it is absurd. Sounds like an unwieldy mixture, eh? Chalk it up as a testament to Coscarelli's talents that such a wacky conceit could successfully cover such a wide array of sincere emotion.
I'll forgo the specific details of how Elvis and JFK end up depressed and alone in a dank old age home, as what's more important is how Coscarelli and Company actually make you believe it by the time Act III rolls around. You're unlikely to find a more "odd couple" than Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis and I suspect it's that sort of arcane unpredictability that helps to keep Bubba Ho-Tep so disarming.
Those who've spent their youths perusing the horror/sci-fi sections at the local video store need no introduction to the myriad talents of Mr. Bruce Campbell, but Bubba Ho-Tep represents a massive leap forward for the sadly overlooked actor. Ironic that what's far and away his best performance comes in a film that may end up going straight-to-video, but that's OK. You'll still get to see Bruce in all his hip-swinging Southern drawling glory...one day. Davis is no less endearing as a clearly confused old chap who is wholly convinced of his Kennedy lineage and after only a few scenes - we simply believe him.
It's tough to name a genre that Bubba Ho-Tep doesn't cover (and cover successfully). Many early scenes touchingly depict the icy heartbreak of advanced old age; the buddy aspect of the ongoing investigation provides heaping handfuls of rock-solid laughs; and the creepy-ass Mummy (and his giant skittering scarabs) seems yanked from a particularly slick modern horror flick. (Wow, a Mummy in a GOOD recent flick? I was surprised as you.)It irritates and saddens me that Martin Lawrence's latest vehicle can explode obnoxiously into 2,500 screens while something of Bubba Ho-Tep's clearly evident quality may end up languishing on a shelf somewhere - but that's life in Modern Hollywood. Perhaps Coscarelli should blame himself for making a flick that avoids genre characterization in every conceivable way. Or he could just pat himself on the back for a job damn well done - and hope for the best.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.