Director – Don Coscarelli
Cast – Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Edith Jefferson, Larry Pennell, Reggie Bannister, Daniel Roebuck, Daniel Schweiger, Harrison Young
Release Year – 2002
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Few horror films these days strike me as awesomely original, and those that are tend to be neglected by the Hollywood standard, and this film is one of them. Bubba Ho-tep may be the only film to ever employ both characters Elvis Presley and JFK, and to make matters even more unique…have them fight off a maniacal mummy known as Bubba Ho-tep. Bring on horror veteran writer/director Don Coscarelli(Phantasm I-V, MOH: Incident On and off of a Mountain Road) to write and direct this absurdly cool film and you have a concoction sure to please all fans of the genre.
Bubba Ho-tep stars horror icon Bruce Campbell(Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, My Name Is Bruce) as Elvis, who now believes he has taken over the body of an Elvis impersonator. He now resides in a nursing home, and must deal with the dull life of such a place, as well as a vengeful mummy reaping havoc on sleeping elderly patrons. Elvis has joined forces with the only other person aware of what is going on, a black man(Ossie Davis) claiming to be JFK and despite their physical inhibitions…wage an all out war against the king of the dead.
If there is ever a list of “cool” horror films this one will be towards the top of the list. Don Coscarelli does a fantastic job shaping this flick into much more than just a horror film, but a film with such subtle yet absorbent humor that I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions. The level of “fun” in this film is high, and thankfully the fun is not reserved to mere visuals but incredible dialogue as well.
I was very impressed with how well written this film is, and it shows with the absurd yet awesome lines we get from our two protagonists, Elvis and JFK. Based on the short story by Joe R. Lansdale, Coscarelli did a superb job adapting the story into a full-length screenplay and despite not too much action going on from time to time this flick paced perfectly thanks to his tight screenplay. We get no useless scenes whatsoever, and everything that goes on is either relevant to the overall plot or the humor, and never to anything un-worthwhile. The overall plot of the film is as zany as it gets, and I loved it. How often do we see Elvis and JFK, a BLACK JFK, in the same film? Never. How, how often do we see this dynamic duo fighting off a mummy donning a cowboy hat and some sweet snakeskin boots? Never EVER, and that is what makes this film an awesome watch from the get-go.
Thankfully, Coscarelli’s execution is what allowed this zany-plotted film to succeed. I have seen some other fairly sweet plotted films in the genre, but most come from horrible filmmakers looking to make a quick buck on a plot that will turn heads. For such a low-budget film, with a budget of a mere $500,000, it is amazing how well shot this flick is. Great visuals and perfect lighting set up each scene perfectly, and get the most out of the scenes involving Bubba Ho-tep, who looked AWESOME(if you don’t know by now). Coscarelli’s execution helped with the film’s pacing as well, with each scene visually crafted to keep the viewer’s utmost interest in what is going on, as if Bruce was not enough himself. To make things ever cooler, we get some humor that does not come as a result of awesome dialogue, but some slapstick-esque direction that also had me laughing out loud, a common denominator in this classic horror film.
Overall, this is an awesome and truly unique watch that gives us horror veterans Bruce Campbell and Don Coscarelli, as well as many genuine laughs thanks to a superb screenplay and excellent direction. Recommended to all horror fans.