Wednesday, 13th December 2017. 3:41:37pm ET
Reviews Movie Reviews Bubba Ho-Tep

 


Movie: Bubba Ho-Tep
Company: MGM
Format: DVD
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 9/18/04

Bubba Ho-Tep is something of an oddity. An independent b-horror flick from director Don Coscarelli (yes, the one with a fondness for tall morticians and flying silver spheres), Bubba Ho-Tep did extremely well on the film festival circuit and even made a pretty noteworthy showing during its very, very limited theatrical run. The film's premise is particularly strange. Taking place in a nursing home, an elderly Elvis Presley (played by cult horror icon Bruce Campbell) and a geriatric (not to mention African American) JFK (Ossie Davis) stumble upon an ancient mummy who happens to be anally (not talking retentive) sucking out the souls of the home's other residents. It's obviously up to Elvis, complete with white jumpsuit and walker, and wheelchair-aided JFK to take him out.

Perhaps a certain Mr. Coscarelli forgot to take his medication while brainstorming this project, but it's an interesting premise nonetheless. Unfortunately, its execution isn't spectacular. Much of the film dramatically deals with the issues of growing old and ill. The film opens with a fairly uncomfortable scene with an internal monologue voice over by Campbell, as Elvis, talking about a cyst on his penis. Things don't get much better from there, even involving a bit of sexual content/humor. While it's, perhaps, a fairly realistic portrayal of a nursing home and its inhabitants, it's not exactly a pleasant or entirely entertaining one.

As for the horror elements, they're few and far between. Bruce Campbell fans will likely delight in a slapstick scene that involves Elvis fighting off a big demonic bug with his walker and a bedpan, but there really aren't any excellent horror scenes. The film concentrates on the development of Elvis's character and really does very little in the way of plot development when it comes to the horror story that ties everything together. Plot elements, which really don't explain much and leave a lot of things feeling like they're just there for the hell of it, come in little flashes or are simply just spewed out by the characters. The resident mummy, nicknamed Bubba Ho-Tep, makes only a few appearances, the biggest one being a completely unimaginative ending. A lot of the horror humor found here is extremely low brow and just plain dumb (I'm talking slasher dumb) from the arse-sucking mummy to the penis humor to the film's incredibly cheesy (yet chuckle-worthy) last line. The movie, perhaps, works a little better as an offbeat drama with a few silly, inconsequential horror elements thrown in. As a horror film, however, it sort of falls flat on its arse.

The disc has the usual load of bonus materials. There are two commentary tracks (including one by "The King"). You'll find outtakes, "making of" featurettes, trailers, a photo gallery, and a music video. It's the typical bonus material stuff, but there's plenty of it. The video transfer is excellent, and the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is also well done.

Campbell and Davis both give very strong performances, particularly Campbell, whose semi-vulgar, sometimes cranky elderly Elvis is excellent. Still, they aren't really enough to save the film. Granted, the film is getting praise everywhere and is being lauded by hordes of Bruce Campbell fans. However, I'm a fairly big fan of Bruce's work myself, and I found Bubba Ho-Tep to be something of a letdown. It's somewhat entertaining at times and often effective in its portrayal of the elderly, but it's certainly not a great piece of cinema or a top of the line b-horror flick. Fans of Campbell's or Coscarelli's other work may want to give it a shot, but it's really little more than slightly-more-ambitious-than-usual b-horror schlock with a fun and interesting premise that never reaches its potential.


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