The charm of a Don Coscarelli film is the way in which he treats his characters and the sparks that fly between them. Seldom does he mean to do this in a romantic sense, but I've always enjoyed his movies for their honest portrayals of friendship and human relationships. I'd have to say that one of his newer films, "Bubba Ho-Tep", is easily his most accomplished work since his breakthrough feature, "Phantasm", in terms of the overall character development and consistent endearment. It's the kind of film that you can't help but enjoy and respect; and while most critics may find it hard to love, I smell a fan-base and a cult status not too far off on the horizon. After all, Coscarelli is a favorite of horror fanatics worldwide, and since I consider this to be one of his best films yet, I imagine it will have no trouble finding its way into the hearts of a great many movie-goers and leaving its mark. What I don't know is whether my predictions will prove accurate; but what I do know is that it's one of the most enjoyable films I've seen in some time.
You might be wondering up-front; what exactly does the title "Bubba Ho-Tep" mean? The movie begins with a double-definition; and it's through this that we learn the true meaning of the film's title. Apparently, Ho-Tep refers to a mummy or Pharaoh of some sort, just anyone from Egypt (long ago) overall, and Bubba refers to, well, a white man (preferably a redneck). Another opening tidbit in the form of a condensed black-and-white documentary informs us that the remains of one of these Ho-Tep sorts has been recovered from an expedition in Egypt and is now coming to a museum near you. But when the bus carrying the mummified corpse crashes and lands head-first into a river, the spirit of the mummy is revived, and he decides to go on a killing spree in order to steal the souls of the living. He starts with a nursing home in Texas, not far from where the bus skidded off the bridge and into the water.
Living at the nursing home is an aging, cranky Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell). He is forever complaining about his penis and how he can no longer maintain or even flat-out GET an erection (although in one scene, an idea makes it possible for him to get one for just an instant) and pondering inevitable death. He's so very close to it. He's just waiting to die at this point. He is indeed Elvis Presley - The King - but nobody will believe him. As we're told, he's been confused for an Elvis impersonator that he had signed a contract with some time ago; only the contract, which would have provided legitimate proof of his true identity, was destroyed in a trailer-park grill fire explosion. The King is therefore reduced to nothing more than just a sitting duck in a bed, wondering whether his pecker will ever get better.
However, he does have one friend at the home; that is a man named Jack (Ossie Davis), who claims to be John F. Kennedy. This time around, I can understand why nobody believes his claims; the man is black, for God's sake, and he seems borderline mental. Yet, Elvis discovers a bullet wound - very much reminiscent of the one documented in the Zapruder film - on the back of his head. Nevertheless, the two seem to get along. This is good, especially when the two of them both discover a nasty bug infestation of giant green roaches in the building; making them intent on finding the source. Their findings bring them to the discovery of the escaped mummy, as well as his intentions. They decide that they must do all in their power to save the souls of themselves, their friends, and the people that lubricate their wrinkly dicks; and they proceed to do so in true Don Coscarelli fashion. Scenes of wheelchair-bound battle certain to ensue.
Coscarelli has been making films since the early 1970's, but he didn't venture into the horror genre until 1978. Still, several good decades later, he has not lost a bit of his wit or charm; resorting to cheesy - but admirable - animatronic effects for the bugs and traditional make-up for the mummy. The camerawork also creates an almost deeply nostalgic feel; which makes the film all the more entertaining, for me. Coscarelli almost even achieves a certain atmosphere with the camera placement, the lighting, and the locations put together; although I suppose that was the intent, given that he wanted to craft a horror-comedy that rightfully blended the two elements in equal doses. Sure, it's not actually scary, but some movies of this sort tend to half-ass both the production and the script, and that's not the case here. Coscarelli's strength is in writing characters that you enjoy being around, and he's accomplished quite a bit with his quirky JFK and Elvis reincarnations. There are also recurring themes of the philosophical approach to life and death; something not terribly new to the man's films.
The bottom line is this: if you want a good time, go out and rent this movie. You (probably) won't regret it. I think its best appreciated if you are aware and appreciate Coscarelli's earlier films; but it works well enough on its own. It may indeed underwhelm when the horror bits start to kick in, but it made me laugh like few films of recent times have truly been able to, and I appreciated that. I think it takes some considerable skill to pull off a charming, engaging comedy with characters that you care about and comic situations of skillful timing and a certain whimsical quality to them. Love it, hate it, like it, or think it's just kind of "meh"; "Bubba Ho-Tep" will nonetheless stick with you for its eccentric ideas and off-kilter perception of horror slapstick. Don Coscarelli; thank you, thank you very much.
I see that no one has responded to my "Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire" review. You may not respond to this one, either, but both are wonderful. Imagine, if you will, that Elvis Presley is alive and living in a rest home in East Texas. (It is explained why Elvis is still alive and why we don't know about it). Elvis is, of course, played by Bruce Campbell, who does a brilliant job. Next, imagine that Elvis's best friend in the rest home is ex president John … more
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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