Bubba Ho-tep (2002) – Film

“Bubba Ho-tep”

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Elvis teams up with JFK at a retirement home to defeat an ancient Egyptian Soul Sucker who is using the home’s residents as his food.

This low budget, indie film was directed by Don Coscarelli, who also adapted the screenplay from a novella by Joe Lansdale.   I am typically the person that will insist on not comparing the film to the source material.  In this case – compare away!  Cascarelli really did justice to the original story. According to the director commentary, Joe Lansdale is actually pleased with the final result.  The pacing is slow and steady, the effects are all analogue and practical (rubber scarabs flying across the room!  Brilliant!), and the soundtrack is great.  Amusingly, there is no actual footage nor music of Elvis Presley in this movie.

As improbable as the story itself is, the cast is phenomenal.  Bruce Campbell is our elderly, broken down, walker wielding hero, Elvis Presley.  Or at least that’s what he believes.  One of the wonderful sub plots in the film is that certain of the residents, who appear to have some form of dementia, earnestly believe they are famous figures in hiding.  In this case, Campbell plays Sabastian Haff, an Elvis impersonator who has an elaborate back story of how he is the real Elvis who had a signed contract and switched places with the Haff fellow.   However, the contract was lost in a tragic trailer park BBQ accident.  His life at the home is unremarkable and unworthy of his notice, until his roommate dies.  After that, he begins to take notice of the goings on around him.  He teams up with Ossie Davis as Jack, who believes he is JFK, and has an equally elaborate back story.  The supporting cast is a dream, featuring Ella Joyce, as Elvis’ nurse; Reggie Bannister as the retirement home’s administrator, and Larry Pennell as Kemosabe.

I was fortunate enough to see this on the big screen at a midnight showing and it was very fun, if a little slow paced for my personal preferences.   One of the best things about this story is that it is never clear whether he actually is or is not the real Elvis Presley.  Watching it today, I am pleased to see that it holds up (as solid, interesting stories and practical effects seem to do).  I gave this 4 1/2 cups of coffee.

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