Saturday, August 02, 2014

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Some stories are so strange that you just have to hear them. This movie is one of them. Imagine a nursing home where both Elvis Presley and a black JFK reside. Add to that a mummy who’s sucking the souls out of the other residents. It’s up to Elvis and Jack to save everyone. This isn’t some alternate history, though.

Elvis, played by Bruce Campbell, claims that he switched places with an impersonator named Sebastian Haff and that it was the impersonator who died of a drug overdose. No one believes him because his copy of the contract went up in a freak barbecue accident. As for JFK, who’s played by Ossie Davis here, he didn’t really die as a result of the attempt on his life. Instead, he was in a coma and had part of his brain replaced with sand. His skin was dyed black so that nobody could finish the job.

As for the mummy, Elvis finds out that two guys tried to steal the coffin of some no-name member of the Ho-Tep dynasty, but ended up going off of a bridge during their escape. (Elvis names the mummy Bubba.) The mummy was never recovered. It just so happens that the bridge was very close to the nursing home that JFK and Elvis live in.

The residents of the home are just what Bubba needs to restore himself: easy prey. The people of the home don’t provide much nourishment, but they don’t put up much of a fight, either. To make things easier for Bubba, no one thinks twice if someone there dies; it looks like old age. Jack and Elvis realize that no one will ever believe them, so they take on the challenge themselves.

It’s a strange idea for a movie, but it’s a good one. I find it somewhat amusing that all three of the main characters are either dead or supposed to be dead to varying degrees. Bubba is actually dead and looking to come back to life. Jack’s story sounds fishy, even though he believes it. Elvis’s story is at least plausible, although you have to wonder why he left no proof of who he was. (Couldn’t he be fingerprinted or something?)

I think it says something about the writing that, while there were jokes about the characters, the characters seemed to take themselves seriously. Elvis doesn’t mind having switched places, but regrets not being there for his wife and daughter. He takes the blame for all of his bad decisions. (Jack, on the other hand, is a little paranoid that LBJ may be out to get him, but what do you expect?)

The one thing I thought wasn’t necessary was that Elvis had an growth in a private area that had to be taken care of every day. You don’t really see anything, but parents might not be comfortable watching it with their children.

We don’t see much of Bubba and when Bubba does appear, it’s usually dark and the appearance is brief. This is probably why what few special effects there were came out so well. There’s not much of a history for Bubba other than what Elvis finds out on his fact-finding mission, which I suppose is just as well. An enemy like that doesn’t need much of a history.

The movie doesn’t quite fit into any category, although it does come close to science fiction and comedy. It’s a lot of things, but not really any category at the same time. It’s just a good movie. It runs about 90 minutes, which is the perfect length. I think that anyone who likes offbeat movies will love this one. 

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