I’m always on the search for movies that are strange enough to add to my “Granny’s Insomnia Theater” category. Last night I came across a Don Coscarelli’s cult favorite on Watch Comet TV. It was different. It was weird. But, did Bubba Ho-Tep meet all my expectations? Find out after the jump.
Don Coscarelli is best known Phantasm and The Beastmaster, and I was happy to learn that he was the recipient of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Screenplay for Bubba Ho-Tep which stars Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead franchise) and Ossie Davis.
Bubba Ho-Tep is a 2002 American comedy/horror film about the real Elvis Presley living in a nursing home under an assumed name. The film is based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale. The film begins with an elderly man recovering from a hip injury at the Shady Rest Retirement Home in East Texas. Sebastian Hall (Bruce Campbell) is really Elvis Presley, but the staff thinks he’s hallucinating or has dementia. We learn that Elvis grew weary of the fast life, drugs and one-night-stands. One day, he switched identities with a down on his luck Elvis impersonator, Sebastian Haff.
Elvis is the one stuck in the nursing home because all his documentation proving he is Elvis was destroyed in a campground fire, thus cutting him off from his billions in royalties and his family. To add to his dilemma, Elvis broke his hip over twenty years ago in a freak stage accident…he also has a cancerous growth on his penis. Bruce Campbell is amazing as Elvis and, he portrays his character with dignity as Elvis comes to terms with the horrors of old age. We feel every ache and we feel the angst a once famous man must endure via the natural aging process.
Coscarelli’s did something very touching with this film when he added a few insertions showing how Campbell’s Elvis observed the passage of time with the mundane parade of sameness as nurses enter and leave and new roommates come and go. The POV was there for all of us to understand: Death is a frequent visitor at all retirement homes. I did not expect this thoughtful consideration from a low budget horror film, but there it was.
Elvis has one friend in that home who believes him and it’s no other than President John F. Kennedy. Ossie Davis plays a black man who insists that he is President Kennedy and that Lyndon Johnson had him dyed black after the assassination attempt failed. Johnson also had the hole in Kennedy’s head filled with sand. There is a mysterious scar that finally convinces Elvis to believe Jack when people start dying mysteriously at the nursing home. Elvis and Kennedy join forces to save their friends from an ancient creature.
Bubba Ho-Tep (Bob Ivy) is a re-animated ancient Egyptian mummy that was stolen while on a U.S. Museum Tour. Somehow this mummy winds up in a river near to the nursing home when the robber’s bus crashed during a storm.
Bubba stays alive by sucking the souls from the elderly and with a nursing home full of forgotten senior citizens; this mummy is definitely enjoying the Shady Rest smorgasbord. We’re not told how the mummy became re-animated or why he’s wearing cowboy clothing or boots, but it kind of goes well with the rest of the weirdness.
I successfully talked hubby into watching this film with me and he really enjoyed it as much as I did.
Bruce Campbell did a wonderful job of reminding us that even the famous must give into the pearls of old age, but that doesn’t mean we should consider them a disability. When there is a battle to be won, the elderly are pretty damn resourceful. Watch this film if you can. You won’t be sorry you did