The Revolution Review
© Peggy Hailey
Some B-movies started out to be A-movies and missed. Others tried just a little too hard and overdid something, like campy humor. But every once in a while, a group of talented individuals sets out to make a B-movie and gets everything just right: action, thrills, humor, and a good story, well-told. Bubba Ho-Tep gets it just right.
Based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-Tep is the story of a 68 year-old Elvis, living out his days in a nursing home in East Texas. No one in the nursing home has much to live for, so no one looks askance when the residents start dying. No one, that is, but one of the residents, an elderly black man who fully believes that he's JFK. Jack is believes that a mummy is stalking the home and feeding on the souls of its residents. He manages to convince Elvis that the mummy is real, and they set out to destroy the mummy.
Bubba Ho-Tep hits all the right notes, starting with the opening titles. The screenplay is so faithful to the novella that I recognized whole chunks of Lansdale's dialogue. Even the hieroglyphics were the same! The music sets the mood perfectly. The movie is well-paced and strikes just the right balance of horror and humor.
But the key to the movie's success is the performances. Bruce Campbell is a revelation as Elvis, really losing himself in the role: the gestures, the tone of voice, everything is spot on. For all its inherent silliness, this is one of the most respectful portraits of Elvis you'll ever see. Campbell's fine performance is balanced by an equally stunning performance by Ossie Davis as Jack. Davis lends an air of quiet authority to Jack, making his outlandish beliefs ring true despite their apparent absurdity.
Bubba Ho-Tep doesn't have a distributor yet, and that's a crying shame, because it really deserves a wider audience. If you like Coscarelli's other films, you'll like this one. If you like Joe R. Lansdale's work, you'll like it. And if you're a Bruce Campbell fan, you'll walk away in awe, because you never even suspected that he was this good. If Bubba Ho-Tep comes to a theatre or a film festival near you (and when I say "near," please keep in mind that I drove three and a half hours to see a 9:30 pm show, knowing I had to drive back and go to work the next day), don't miss it. You won't be sorry.
Revolution SF Books Editor Peggy Hailey would cheerfully pay money to watch Bruce Campbell read the phone book.