on May 27, 2004
This is more than a fun comedy/horror flick--it is a meditation on the death of American legends...about the disposable nature of our attitudes concerning the aged, and the redemption one can find in "Taking Care of Business." Bruce Campbell deserved an Academy Award nomination.
Better than a fried peanut butter and 'nanna sannich, Momma. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.
on July 19, 2004
Bruce Campbell does it again in Bubba Ho-tep. Even though it is completely different from his "Ash" character in the Evil Dead movies, his Elvis-impersonating character in this movie will surely gather a cult following. Just as we are used to, his one-liners and quirky sayings will keep you laughing long after the movie is over. The story line is pretty ridiculous, but what did you expect? I definitely recommend this movie.
I must admit right off the top that I've never been a big Bruce Campbell fan at all.I have found his acting to be pedestrian at best with just one or two "tricks" he invariably uses in every role he plays.This role however has made me rethink Bruce Campbell and his abilities.
Bruce plays an aging Elvis who has wound up in a nursing home,wondering where his life all went wrong and what the heck that "thing" is on his,er well,private parts! He shows a great range in his portrayal here and he leaves you convinced he is "The King".
He becomes a reluctant ally with another nursing home inhabitant by the name of John Kennedy,the past president.This role is played beautifully by veteran actor Ossie Davis who also convinvces you,skin colour included,that he is who he portrays.
Both find themselves pitted against a mummy who is using this seniors home as a "feeding" ground for collecting souls.A Fox who has had free reign in the proverbial henhouse,you might say, until he is found out and comes up against two decrepit but committed post-famous geriatrics.
The film is,when all said and done,a battle of good-against-evil thriller with some wonderful and original twists but there is something else.The thread of life in nursing homes and just how seniors are treated by staff and visitors alike winds its' uncomfortable way through this picture meshing in well with on going events.At times though it almost threatens to slow the pace and narrative up but there is enough of the major theme to keep it rolling steadily along.
This movie is one that just does not rush itself.It has a story to tell you,events and people that it wants you to come to know and when the payoff comes around everything ends well and as it should.Patience is the key word here but it pays off in spades.Special mention also goes to the roles of Elvis'nurse and to the two undertakers who have a running gag throughout the film.
I recommend this movie highly.Kudos to Mr Davis and especially a tip of the derby to Mr Campbell who does a surprisingly expert job in his portrayal here.A deliberately paced horror flick with some wonderful and surprisingly original twists on an old theme.
The idea here is quite simple. Elvis (Bruce Campbell) is not dead; he switched over with an Elvis impersonator and was living a carefree life (as an Elvis impersonator) when he broke his hip. Now he is in a rest home in East Texas, concerned with an abnormality on a particular part of his anatomy, and hobbling around on a walker. But then giant scarab beetles start showing up and he learns from John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis), who is also in the rest home, having been dyed black by the assassination conspiracy, that there is an ancient Egyptian soul sucking mummy named Bubba Ho-Tep killing off the members of their less than happy little home.
Is it really Elvis? After all, it is not really JFK. But then there really is a Bubba Ho-Tep, so at least it is a fifty-fifty proposition. If only there had not been that barbeque accident that destroyed the only proof Elvis had in his possession about the switch. But the important thing is that this 2002 film works either way. When Elvis talks about his regrets over running out on Priscilla and Lisa Marie or about how bad his films were, there is some resonance. Besides, there is something heroic about the King heading out to do battle with a mummy puffing along behind his walker while JFK zips along in his motorized wheelchair.
Campbell's performance as the aged and infirmed Elvis avoids caricature; the accent is never laid on too thick, which is key. Like the short story by Joe R. Lansdale on which it is based, this film from director Don Coscarelli has an affection for the character of Elvis. The point was not that Elvis disappeared, but that by pretending to be an Elvis impersonator he could perform without having to put up with the rest of the circus (it reminds me of the Elvis from his television comeback special, where he sits in a circles with the guys playing his guitar and singing his music, long before the became the bloated figure in the white star spangled jump suit).
You keep thinking that "Bubba Ho-Tep" is going to be a camp horror movie, but it does not go this way. Yes, this film is actually on the conservative side of things like "Men in Black," which had tongues more prominently in cheeks. But then these two old codgers have lots of problems besides the soul-sucking mummy and this film ends with a knock down drag out fight between our heroes and the title character. Campbell and Davis take their characters serious, as does the film, and that is why it works as well as it does, which is a lot better than you would ever think. At the very least, you have to celebrate the film's audacity and say, as would the King: "Thank you. Thank you very much."
As you would expect the extras on this DVD are above average. You have two commentary tracks, the first by Coscarelli and Campbell, with the second being by "The King." Lansalde reads from his original story and you also get theatrical trailers and TV spots, deleted scenes, and several featurettes.
How can you not love a movie called Bubba Ho-Tep featuring the King of Rock 'n' Roll taking on a cowboy mummy - especially when you have Bruce Campbell playing the role of Elvis? Add in a remarkable performance by Ossie Davis, one of the best soundtracks in recent years, and a huge number of extras on the DVD, and you've got a movie of must-see status. This film was actually a lot different from what I was expecting; I went in looking for comedy, and I got comedy - but I also got a really quite serious film that speaks to the audience on all sorts of meaningful levels. Bubba Ho-Tep gets better on multiple viewings, as well, and I suspect some folks who weren't that enthused with the film might change their minds if they were to watch it again.
It's sort of hard to classify this thing. Sure, there's a 4000-year-old, soul-sucking mummy and some nasty scarab beetles killing people, but this is not just a horror movie. It's a poignant look at the way old people are pushed aside and forgotten by the younger generations, a poignant look at one man's reflections back on his life, and it's also wickedly funny. Here's the story; bear with me on this. Elvis Presley is stuck in a nursing home in Mud Creek, Texas; back in the 1970s, he switched places with Sebastian Haff, one of the best Elvis impersonators, and now his new life is entering its final, loneliest phase. He is now a little old and feeble, he has a bad hip that forces him to use a walker, but he's mainly just feeling old and used up and worthless. When his roommate dies, he watches the guy's daughter (Heidi Marnhout - who is quite a looker, by the way) come and basically toss the old man's life and memories right in the trash. Then some old folks around him start dying mysterious deaths - deaths caused by a soul-sucking mummy in snakeskin boots and a cowboy hat. Hey, even Elvis has a hard time believing it until he sees it for himself. His only ally is President John F. Kennedy, played by Ossie Davis. Okay, I know you're saying "Isn't Ossie Davis black?" What happened, see, is that, after the shooting in Dallas, "they" dyed JFK black and filled his head with sand (his brain is still in Washington, running on battery power) - that's what Jack thinks, anyway. Well, these two old guys load up for bear and go out to kill themselves a mummy.
The plot may sound stupid, but this is in no way a stupid movie. Unfortunately, the things that make Bubba Ho-Tep such a great film are impossible to describe and quantify in words. It's an Elvis redemption story, as he gets up out of the bed and sets aside his age and, uh, problems, to become the hero he always wanted to be - he finds a reason to live again. Ossie Davis really makes the movie work; it takes a really great actor to play a black John F. Kennedy, and this movie may have failed utterly without his contribution to the project. Bruce Campbell is, of course, superb. One critic called his performance one for the ages; I'm not sure I would go that far, but he does an amazing job, one which only furthers his cult status among his growing number of fans.
My hat is definitely off to Don Coscarelli for his vision and determination to make this film. The studios wouldn't touch this thing with a ten-foot pole (which says a lot about what is wrong with the studios), the actors' agents weren't exactly keen on their guys taking the roles being offered, and there wasn't much money at all in terms of budget, but Coscarelli really makes the magic happen. The makeup job on Campbell was pretty good for the most part, and the man pretty much becomes the King. The soundtrack, as I've mentioned, is just incredible, thanks to composer Brian Tyler - even if you hate the movie, you may have to go out and buy the soundtrack. Bubba Ho-Tep did enjoy a limited distribution in theatres, earning film festival kudos in the process, but this independent film release is really one of those things that starts with word-of-mouth advertising and then just spreads like wildfire.
The DVD is incredible. Along with several featurettes on the making of the movie, theatrical and TV trailers, a music video of the theme song, deleted scenes, and a reading by Joe R. Lansdale from his original Bubba Ho-Tep short story on which the film was based, you also get two commentaries. The first one, featuring director Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell, is as informative as it is fun, but the second commentary is something special as it features "The King" himself - this is one of the funniest things I've ever heard in my life and definitely my favorite commentary of all time. This movie is worth buying for this alone, as The King's reactions to different aspects of the story and his frequent observations about the differences between this and his own films will have you rolling on the floor.
I wish I could communicate just how poignant this film really is. Despite of all the humor and farcical action going on, this movie addresses a lot of serious themes in a remarkable way. You'll laugh, you might even cry, and you will almost definitely go around doing Elvis impersonations of your own for at least a week. This is entertainment of the highest order, my friends.
on July 13, 2004
This movie has its moments, but they are too few to justify some of the rave reviews. Bruce Campbell as always fun to watch and it's nice to see Ossie Davis in the supporting role, but other than a few kudos to the casting director, there are few accolades left to pass around.
Let's start with the script. It smacks of first year USC Film School amateurism. Take a couple cultural icons, as you haven't the imagination to come up with dimensional characters, add an absurd plot that is nothing more than rehashed B movie material, shake haphazardly, and viola! You have this mish mash of cliché riddled Indie inanity.
The main problem is lack of believability. Even in the most absurd Ionesco play, there has to be some sense of continuity, truth, cohesion, inner logic. This script lacks any of these. It's simply a series of ill conceived ideas that would occur to any hash smoking hack with an underdeveloped sense of humor. Not one witty line in the entire film. Just some crude bathroom humor and a few lines striving, but never arriving at true twistedness.
Bruce Campbell does the best he can with the material. He delivers a couple of times, as in the scene where Elvis is giving a concert in his decrepit condition and he falls off the stage. Unfortunately, most of the time he is a prisoner of the banal dialogue and inept direction supplied him. Ossie Davis is equally strapped. I kept expecting the scriptwriter/director to introduce Marilyn Monroe at some stage, as that was the next obvious icon to resort to when you have no actual ideas. Sure enough, she is referrenced. Elvis asks JFK "how Marilyn was in bed." JFK/Davis pauses and makes the standard, "wryly humorous" reply. I really wanted to throw something at the screen. Then there is the utterly banal Elvis dialogue about Priscilla and their precious daughter. Again, totally unbelievable. Are these lines meant to lend poignancy and depth to Elvis? Doesn't work. And where has Elvis acquired the college level vocabulary he has now? Are we meant to think that The King has been reading T S Eliot and Shakespeare while reclining in his nursing home bed all these years? Totally out of character!
Then there are all the other tell tale directorial choices that let us know we are not in the hands of a master of the cinema. For instance, after Elvis has huffed and puffed his way down a hillside with his walker and, after extreme exertion finally arrived at the lakeside, he has not one drop of sweat on his heavily made up face to show for it. I know from personal experience that someone really out of shape would be sweating like a hard worked mule after that sort of effort. It's things like that that don't occur to true amateurs.
This is not a keeper. Rent it if you must. Now I'll go hide behind my barricade, awaiting the assault of the true believers.
on July 9, 2004
Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis outdo themselves in a movie that manages to be incredibly funny, a moving statement on the value of life as one goes older, a fine horror flick, and a bit foul mouthed for my own tastes.
Campbell plays an Elvis who traded places with an Elvis Imitator back 30 years or so ago having grown sick of the life etc... Davis plays a JFK who was dyed black by LBJ after the assassination "attempt" in Nov 1963. The movie is told from "Elvis'" perspective so he believes in himself (but has doubts about JFK) For us both possibilities would seem unlikely, as is the chance of both the King and the President being in the same nursing home in East Texas in 2002. The film leaves us to decide that.
However it is even more unlikely that an undead Egyptian Mummy is sucking the souls of dead people at the nursing home while writing graffiti on the bathroom walls in hieroglyphics. Of this the film leaves no doubt. Since this is even less likely then the Elvis & Kennedy bit it all ends up working smashingly.
We see Elvis reflect on his life, we see time dash by without change until Elvis manages to fight off an attack by the calling card of the Mummy.
As he becomes useful again his self respect returns and both old men resolve to defend the only home they have.
The film make good use of the supporting cast particularly Ella Joyce as the nurse. It also plays all the characters seriously. The battle between the Mummy and our heroes is very much a fight between an undead creature and two very old men and is played totally straight.
This movie works on every level, Campbell should have gotten a nomination for this role. It's one of the best movies you will have never seen.
on July 7, 2004
An ancient Egyptian soul-sucker is on the loose at the Mud Creek Shady Rest home in east Texas, and only Elvis Presley and JFK can save the day. Unfortunately, Elvis broke his hip twenty years ago and has to use a walker, and JFK had part of his brain replaced with sand and his skin dyed black by the CIA. This sounds like a B-Movie plot (which it is) and you would expect Hollywood to ignore a movie like this completely (which it has), especially when Elvis is played by Bruce Campbell, star of the Evil Dead series of films. However, this is no B-Movie. Beyond the basic premise, this script has unexpected depth and compassion for its characters and continually suprises the viewers throughout the course of the film's 92 minute running time.
This movie is less about the title character (the Egyptian soul-sucker mentioned above), and more about the introspection on a life led, choices made and not made, and the regrets and acceptances of the consequences of those choices. It is about a man who has led a charade of one kind or another all his life finally dropping all the charades and just being who he is. A man who, worn down by the human soul-suckers around him, finally breaks free by defeating an inhuman one.
The interior shots of the rest home have an old, worn-down look that you would see in any home built during the depression, and only given enough care to keep it from collapsing. This world-weary look is reflected in the attitude of its residents, most of whom have long given up on the world since the world has given up on them. They have "small souls" - there is nothing left for them other than Shady Rest. The oppression is palpable.
In the midst of this an ancient Egyptian, buried without a name, comes back to life. In order to maintain that life, he must suck living humans' souls. Elvis and JFK work together to defeat this menace to their fellow residents, as those souls consumed by the soul-sucker are forever lost - no afterlife, whatever form it might take.
This is Bruce Campbell's finest role to date. He literally disappears into the role - you won't find any of the typical "Brucisms" you see in his other acting jobs. Ossie Davis delivers a fine performance as well, although it's never made clear whether he really is JFK or not (but there are subtle clues he is - check out the carpet and furnishings in his room, for instance).
Although this is marketed as a horror-comedy or a comedy-horror, it really is neither. There are some startling (not scary) parts and some very funny parts, but this movie is really about a man nearing the end of a long journey, looking back at the road he has travelled, looking at the road ahead, and deciding that he would rather make a left than keep going straight.
on July 6, 2004
Who could resist? Bubba Ho-tep, a mummy in snakeskin cowboy boots and Stevie Ray Vaughan hat. Elvis alive and living (dying) in a Texas nursing home. An old man in a wheelchair who claims (1) he's JFK, (2) the CIA turned him black, and (3) Lyndon Johnson is still trying to kill him.
"But President Johnson is dead," Elvis tells him.
"That won't stop Johnson." Anyone over fifty will recognize the truth in that statement. The murderer's Thunder Rolls on in history.
Bubba Ho-tep is about getting old and almost coming to terms with it.
Icons that baby boomers grew up with pervade the movie. Besides people who think they are (or may be) Elvis and Jack Kennedy, the Lone Ranger also lives in the nursing home. But he's senile and the guns he uses against the soul-sucking mummy are just toys. But like the Kimosabe we remember, he goes down fighting to save the innocent.
Our heroes cope with guilt over mistakes made in youth. Elvis wishes he could have seen his daughter more. Kennedy agrees they weren't there for their children as much as they should have been. But Jack absolves himself (and us): "We were the best fathers we could be under the circumstances." Then our Dynamic Duo relieve the tension with a joke about Marilyn Monroe. (Just as Jay and Dave do today with jokes about Monica Lewinsky. A young woman in her early twenties should be the target of the one-liners instead of the theoretically mature man elected president? We still want to make excuses for our heroes so we can use them for ourselves.)
The final battle is the most symbolic conflict in a movie in a long time. The mummy is age. JFK is the leader who has inspired us but also failed us. Elvis is the movie hero we all aspire to be - - artist or lover or fighter - - who beat the bad guys and got the girls because that's the way the scripts were written.
When the leader goes down, Elvis uses Jack's wheelchair (accepting age) to reach the enemy.
The movie deserves credit for having a tragic as well as heroic ending. "I still have my soul," Elvis boasts, and as for all the other old people he was fighting for, "they have theirs too."
But I'm glad that the Lone Ranger was the first one to recognize the enemy, and that he died fighting alone, against the odds. He was purer than Elivis or JFK, better than either of them.
But he was fictional, not real, like Elvis and JFK. Or us.
on July 5, 2004
After viewing the trailer for this movie and reading some of the advanced reviews, I was expecting a great film. BUBBA HO TEP, directed by PHANTASM'S Don Coscarelli, unfortunately, is not a great flick.
Bruce Campbell is amazingly perfect in the role of Elvis Presley/Sebastian Haff. According to storywriter Joe R. Lansdale, Presley switched places with one of his impersonators, so that it was really Haff who died and not Presley. Presley continued to play the impersonator until he fell off the stage, injured his hip and ended up in a nursing home. Campbell's transformation transcends the good make-up job; Campbell gets the intonations down, the sneer, the embodiment of the tortured Elvis psyche. It's probably his most consistently good performance.
Ossie Davis does well as Presley's buddy---a black man who says he is John F. Kennedy. They "dyed" him and keep his brain active with a battery that's located in Washington, DC. They form an uneasy alliance, as Kennedy thinks just maybe Presley knew about the Dallas assassination.
Meanwhile, these geriatric sleuths find themselves battling an ancient Egyptian mummy who sends scarab beetles out to his victims. Some of the effects are excellent and Presley's nailing of the beetle in his bedpan is hilarious. The mummy himself, played by Bob Ivy, is a Freddy clone who ultimately just isn't frightening.
There's a lot of pontification from Presley on how he has ruined his life, but at the same time, he somewhat enjoys his alter ego. Coscarelli's downfall is that while we understand we have geriatric heroes, his slow pacing doesn't help the suspense scenes out at all. The fiery climax is ultimately unsatisfying because it burns itself out.
BUBBA HO TEP deserves praise for its unique subject matter, Lansdale proving what an unusual horror writer he is, and of course for the outstanding job Campbell does. I just wanted more!!!!