Grade: B (as the makers intended)
I have a confession to make: prior to screening Bubba Ho-Tep last Thursday morning, I had never seen Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead series. Fortunately, I have since remedied this grave oversight. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing, but I’ll save the praise of the Evil Dead movies for another time. Of course, the link between these films and Bubba Ho-Tep, is their “king of B movies” star: Bruce Campbell. Constantly up to new challenges, Campbell delivers yet another charismatic and outlandishly humorous performance.
The premise of the film is the kind you wish T.V. execs would pick up on due to its far greater potential than say, a gay man living with a straight woman. The story is as follows: Elvis and President John F. Kennedy (JFK) did not die. Not long before his “death,” Elvis had swapped identities with an Elvis impersonator (one of the funniest scenes in the movie). After surviving the assassination, JFK’s skin was dyed dark, and the CIA hid him away from the public. Now, the two icons share an East Texas rest home where an ancient mummy has come to life and begun feeding on the souls of the elderly residents. It’s up to “the King” (Campbell) and the ex-president (Ossie Davis) to ward off this evil which they dub “Bubba Ho-Tep (roughly translated: Redneck Mummy).”
The film, as you may have guessed, is much more comedy than horror, and even leaves out the gruesome gore you may expect (I personally felt it could benefited from the use of a little blood and guts, but that’s just me). The humor is dead-on with witty dialogue and sincere delivery. Even the toilet jokes are well executed. Campbell creates an over-the-hill, Karate chopping Elvis that Kevin Costner or Kurt Russell (both played Elvis impersonators in 2001’s 3000 Miles to Graceland) could only ever dream of equating.
If one were so inclined, one could also examine and appreciate this film on a deeper level than just a funny horror flick. The state in which we find “The King” and the ex-president can easily be interpreted as a comment about how America uses up their celebrities and spits them out. Both icons had come under criticism for not handling fame and fortune with the greatest humility, and now that they have nothing left to offer the masses, they are dismissed and forgotten. But leave it to the movies to redeem two of America’s most beloved icons by having them go head-to-head with an ancient Egyptian mummy sporting cowboy digs.
No matter how you want to look at this film, we should all thank the movie gods that we live in a city where a theatre like Cinema Du Parc is carrying on the midnight movie tradition that this film fits snugly into. Too bad there’s no local drive-in.