"Elvis, after switching places with an Elvis impersonator in the '70s, now resides in a nursing home whose patients are being stalked by an ancient mummy. Elvis and his friend (who thinks he is JFK, and who is black!) set out to stop the threat."
Upon hearing this description it's easy to understand why an average movie goer would conclude that it "sounds terrible". But looks (and descriptions) can be deceiving. Don Coscarelli's (the man who brought us the cult classics Phantasm and The Beastmaster) latest offering is one part cult Americana and one part B-monster movie.
So apparently Elvis Presley (played to perfection by Bruce "groovy" Campbell), after switching places with Elvis impersonator Sebastian Haff, is now in a nursing home and considered a senile old man who only thinks he is the King of Rock 'N' Roll. Oh yeah, did I mention he can't get it up, and must "lube" his "own crank shaft" every day. Along the way Elvis and his buddy, a black patient who claims he is JFK (they dyed him that color), discover that an ancient mummy is knocking off residents at the nursing home and feeding on their souls. Of course, the two--walker and wheelchair in tow--set out to destroy him.
Coscarelli's direction has improved upon his last Phantasm offerings and he shows that he can handle comedy and drama all at the same time. The funny parts are as good as they come, especially if you like that sort of Sam Raimi slapstick, even though Coscarelli also flourishes it with a sort of crudeness that makes for mucho laughs. Of course, the film also has its dramatic side. The theme about Elvis, or more importantly anyone, who was once somebody important left to rot away in nursing home and forgotten is still powerful, despite all the humour. The horror part is oddly not that big to the story. Bubba Ho-tep (whose origin sequnce has to be an homage to the flashback of ancient Egypt in Blood Feast) himself is harldy in it. When he does appear, he is little more than a lumbering cardboard monster akin to the bottom-of-the-barrel Mummy sequels Universal churned out in the mid-to-late 1940s. Which, of course, is the point.
So in the end, Bubba Ho-Tep is a film about an aging man reclaiming his glory. Not that it's supposed to be that deep, but if you boil it down, that is what it's about. Oh yeah, it's also a hilarious horror/homage and comedy. It's also one of the greatest films of its type to have come out since Evil Dead. Of course, don't go looking for a lot of Ash-esque action sequences, sorry. But if you like conspiracy theories, Universal B-movies, and dark comedies, this is for you.
So even though looks can be deceiving, never judge a book by its cover, or its synopsis for that matter, because that may sound "terrible". But it makes quite a valid point for Don Coscarelli's importance as an independant filmmaker. And I may be wrong, but I smell a comeback.
(Editor's Note: "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" has already debuted in New Zealand to rave reviews. Local newspapers and media remarked on the event with a fervor that ranks with royal coronations and peace treaties. The creation of J.R.R. Tolkien, visualized cinematically by Peter Jackson and filmed on location in NZ, has changed the island nation forever.--Nolan)
It's been the subject of Radio talk shows here in New Zealand.
There've been the comparisons to Sir Edmund Hillary, an
Auckland resident. I heard an elderly gentleman caller
on talk radio complain about the comparison, stating
that what Peter Jackson did in no way compared to what
Hillary did back in 1953. Implying that Sir Ed was sort
of god-like to us mere mortals.
My take on that statement...
Peter Jackson made a movie for the people of the
world, did it very well, employed over 23,000 Kiwis
and gave a major boost (something to the tune of 2+
billion) to NZ's economy.
Edmund Hillary, a beekeeper, climbed the world's
highest mountain, a very impressive feat....for
himself, hired no one except the lone Sherpa
guide....and boosted NZ's tourism economy by tens of
thousands of dollars. I have nothing but praise for
Sir Ed's accomplishment, although it doesn't do a damn
thing for anyone but himself. He didn't study the
mountain's flora and fauna for National Geographic or
any such scientific organization.....he only climbed
Auckland, New Zealand
To send an email to Letters to the Editor write to: Crazedfanboy1@aol.com. Any emails sent to this address will be assumed intended for publication unless you specifically instruct me not to. I can and do respond privately, if that is your preference. Frequently, it's both ways.---Nolan