Bubba Ho-Tep
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Don Coscarelli
with Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Bob Ivy, Heidi Marnhout, Larry Pennell, Daniel Roebuck, Daniel Schweiger, Reggie Bannister, Edith Jefferson, Harrison Young, Linda Flammer
release US 19.Sep.03, UK 8.Oct.04
03/US 1h32

Grumpy old icons: Campbell and Davis

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Bubba Ho-Tep About halfway through this offbeat horror comedy you realise you're watching a cult classic. The snappy dialog and wonderfully dry performances weave themselves together with the nutty premise to completely win you over.

We all know that Elvis and JFK (Campbell and Davis) aren't really dead, right? Well, they're living in a nursing home in Mud Creek, Texas, which is currently the hunting ground of a soul-sucking mummy (Ivy)--a Southern Bubba who was once a member of the Pharaoh's family. So now it's up to Elvis, who needs a walker to get around after all that hip swivelling, and JFK, who's been dyed black to hide his true identity, to save their elderly friends from a fate worse than death.

Besides the inventive storyline, the film has a fantastic sense of melancholy that really captures this group of people who are waiting to die, but aren't ready to go just yet. Campbell and Davis are terrific--hilariously funny and deeply likable. Either their back-stories are true (we even get to see Elvis' secret history), or they're suffering the first stages of senile dementia. Whatever, they're still tenacious, feisty, lovable old icons.

Coscarelli directs with a vintage-horror look that avoids pitfalls of the genre. It's so breathtakingly simple that you can't help but love it--the mummy looks like a guy in a silly suit, but he's can still make us grip the armrests in fear. And it's never cheap thrills; Coscarelli sets up the jolts and then pays them off impeccably, from terrifying giant-beetle attacks to superb "look out, he's behind you" moments. This isn't a loud, fast-paced thriller; it's a wry, observant little romp.

It's also jammed with flashes of genius--from the sassy nurse (Joyce) and deadpan hearse drivers (Roebuck and Schweiger) to hysterically witty set pieces (that dining room scene!). The script is a bundle of sharp dialog, throwaway references, revisionist history and B-movie chills. Even the use of hieroglyphics is inspired ("Cleopatra does the nasty" etched on the toilet wall). So the fact that it's also emotionally moving and astutely observant isn't that much of a surprise, really.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, innuendo 20.Jul.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Bubba Ho-Tep George Dilley, Florida: 4/5 "How can you not love Elvis fighting a roach with his bed pan? What happened to the Dracula movie that was to follow this fine movie?" (20.Aug.06)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall