Hey folks, Harry here with another rave for BUBBA HO-TEP. Ya know, we've been running raves for this movie for the better part of this year from screenings all over the great U.S. of A. on up to the Shangra La that is Canada too. So far, there hasn't been a studio that stepped up to the plate with the brains or the committment to get this film into theaters near you and me. That's just not fair. Well, it ain't I tell ya, not fair at all. I've seen the film 3 times now, and I'd still support it at the box office, it's that kinda wild fun. Funny as all hell and it deserves a moderate to large release.
I’m not typically fond of going to screenings of “cult” movies. While it may have something to do with the fact that, well, I don’t like being around hundreds of wild, yelling people – it can also probably be attributed to the fact that I don’t like being around hundreds of wild, yelling people.
While I used to be a big fan of “audience reaction,” as time passed by, I have settled into a mode in which I would rather watch movies in total peace and quiet. Much of that can be attributed to the idiotic comments towards the movie that some people make – that and the annoying laughter at things that are just not funny. When watching movies with big audiences, I find myself often distracted – trying to figure out the mindset of the person who just guffawed or wondering how someone could be so non comprehensive as opposed to actually paying attention to what is going on in the movie.
Going to movies with a built-in audience only magnifies this. Because their minds are already made up to enjoy the experience, no matter what, I can expect the “laughing at nothing” and “cheering at nothing” to be magnified tenfold (kind of like the midnight showing of Attack of the Clones that I went to). Therefore, I tend to find myself avoiding these types of activities like the plague, which is why I found myself surprised to be at the screening of Bubba Ho-Tep at the Main Art Theatre last Friday.
Well, not too surprised, actually. You see, the screening was to be presented by Bruce Campbell himself, and Mr. Campbell is one of the few actors in the world I actually like. While I personally don’t necessarily like cavorting with a bunch of overzealous fans, I can’t pass up the opportunity to come up with prime material for one of my trademark “Aaron is insane” articles. (CLICK HERE TO READ IT!) That and the opportunity to get a book signed and impress a woman. Thus, I got off of my lazy posterior and headed off to the screening.
Bruce Campbell said that his crowd was a pierced crowd, and that proved to be true to a degree. After arriving at the theatre a bit early with a friend of mine, I was greeted by stereotypical leather wearing pierced individual #1, who was ecstatic to “finally meet Bruce Campbell my hero dude!” That prompted me to promptly put my headphones on and play my Gameboy Advance (the one cure for blocking out all of your surroundings, wherever you are). However, admittedly, most of the rest of his fans were a little less…zealous, which is something that I was very glad of at the time.
At around 6:00, we were invited into the theatre, which was good, because Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonace was getting on my nerves.
Waiting in the theatre with the rest of the fans, and forced to cut off my GBA due to the lack of light within, I had the “pleasure” of hearing some of the various conversations within. The conversations ranged from “A.I. sucked” to “Who directed Army of Darkness?” which was an especially stupid question since the person who asked was holding Bruce Campbell’s book at the time. It didn’t help my opinion of her peer group that none of the people with her had any idea either – they answered with names of people who weren’t even directors.
After around a half hour of sitting, one of the aforementioned “peer group” ran in stating that he had the most embarrassing experience of his life. He went on to proclaim that he was in the restroom and washed his hands when he turned around and saw Bruce Campbell drying his hands there. He shook Bruce Campbell’s hand – only it was embarrassing because his hand was wet! (note that the exclamation point is there only because he stated it in that way) Now while that story was pretty much “who cares,” it did serve the purpose of notifying me that Bruce Campbell had arrived.
Looking around entertainment sites on the Internet, you get many quotes on how “cool” Bruce Campbell is, what a great guy he is, etc. After observing him that evening, I got to understand why. You see, Bruce Campbell is excellent when it comes to dealing with fans. Most stars get (understandably) bored with their fans pretty quick, heck, I (whom am nowhere near a celebrity) can only take so many “YOUR FLASH SERIES IS KEWL DOOD WHEN WILL WE SEE EPISODE 5!?!?” messages a day before I inevitably block all incoming messages from my buddy list. On the other hand, Bruce Campbell is notorious for putting up with all levels of eccentric fans without giving off an air of superiority. In fact, when observing the fan signing and watching him converse with hundreds of fans, you would almost think that he actually cared about what they were saying. Note the “almost.” He’s not that good of an actor.
After waiting around for a while, I finally got my turn to converse with him. I told him that I was a generic Internet writer, and I needed his cooperation in taking goofy pictures for a goofy article that I was writing. Of course, being a “cool” guy, he agreed, and thus, my “Aaron vs. Ash” article was born. I also asked him to sign a copy of his novel in order to “make me look good,” which he did. Then it was back inside the auditorium for the screening.
After a short introduction by Mr. Campbell, Bubba Ho-Tep begun. Bubba Ho-Tep is the story of an elderly Elvis Presley (played by Bruce Campbell), an elderly black man who thinks that he’s JFK, played by Ossie Davis, and a mummy wearing cowboy boots.
See, Elvis is not actually dead. Tired of the fame and life that went along with it, Elvis switched lives with an Elvis impersonator years ago. Now old, with a broken hip and what seems to be prostate cancer, Elvis lives in a depressed state in a rest home (and of course, no one believes him). However, due to an accident, a mummy has come back to life and is feeding on the elderly souls at the rest home as they sleep. Elvis and “Black JFK” discover this and go on a quest to destroy the evil that has attacked their home.
Now while this plot rivals even one of my most wacky articles in sheer imagination, the movie is not quite what you’d expect. Going in, I expected a wacky, over the top, camp horror flick a la Army of Darkness. What I got was a somewhat touching (yes touching) character study of an older Elvis Presley and a black man who thinks that he’s JFK.
The horror elements of the story are actually underplayed. Gore is pretty much nonexistent, and while the dialogue is quite (purposefully) campy at times, it’s never quite as over-the-top as you may expect. Instead, the script focuses on Elvis’ feelings and thoughts, with flashbacks and voiceovers liberally sprinkled in. While Bubba Ho-Tep is going around eating souls through the old folks’ buttholes, the emphasis is on what Elvis feels throughout the ordeal, and his (slight spoiler) redemption at the end (end spoiler).
With this type of story, success and failure depends on the actors. First of all, let me mention that Campbell does a fantastic job as the older Elvis. This isn’t Campbell just doing an Elvis impersonation for an hour and a half – this is Campbell playing a theoretical older, introspective Elvis, which he does to a tee. A test of acting is if a recognizable actor can make you forget that he is the actor while watching, and in actuality, become the character. Campbell does this, and as the movie wnet on, I found myself empathizing with Elvis quite a bit. In fact, dare I say that I actually cared about him?
In a surprising turn of events, Campbell’s Elvis is actually one-upped by Ossie Davis’ “black JFK.” Davis’ acting is spot on for the character, and his presence does wonders for the role. I found myself laughing almost every time that his character was on screen – mainly due to the seriousness in which he played the role. Perhaps the most telling part of his performance is that by the end of the movie, you actually believe that he is JFK.
Going into an “independent ‘B’ movie without a distributor,” I didn’t expect much when it came to direction, cinematography, and score. However, I was pleasantly surprised in all aspects (especially the score, which was actually pretty good). Don’t get me wrong, nothing was outstanding – this wasn’t a Spielberg/Kaminski/Williams combination – but it was good for the material, and thankfully wasn’t plagued with the “since I don’t know how to direct, I’ll rely exclusively on quick cuts, fish eye lenses, and Blair Witch shakycam action!” Even with the limitations, the director showed more flair with the camera than, lets say, Brett Ratner’s recent work in Red Dragon.
Now don’t get me wrong, this IS a cult movie – it’s not a fantastic piece of entertainment or a masterpiece. However, for an hour and a half of escapism, it’s not bad, in fact there are things about it that are actually quite good – and you will get some enjoyment out of it. Just don’t go in expecting a “Bruce Campbell one-liner fest,” save a scene with a scarab and the final encounter in the wheelchair, there isn’t much of that.
After the showing, Bruce Campbell hosted a Q and A session regarding the movie and other things. I copied down a list of the highlights from this:
- When asked about the rumors of him being in Phantasm 5, he stated that the project was not funded yet.
- When asked about his next project, he said that he is working on his next book.
- When asked about what character he will be playing in The Amazing Spider-Man, Campbell jokingly stated that Raimi did not tell him yet, but that, knowing Raimi, he will probably call him up the day before he has to shoot and tell him that he has to come for a “scene at the beginning where he is hit by a bus.”
- Some weirdo asked if he would ever work with Kevin Smith, in which he replied, “huh?” He (he being the weirdo) proved that he didn’t know much of anything when he stated that he heard that Kevin Smith was directing the next Superman movie, in which he was corrected by pretty much the entire audience and started a few side discussions in the audience. While Smith is pretty good when it comes to social commentary, he certainly does not warrant the merit that he gets from fans when it comes to his directorial skills.
- Some guys asked Bruce Campbell to go hang out with them after the Q and A, in which he humorously replied, “Sure…you guys go ahead, and I’ll go freshen up and catch up with you!”
After letting everyone bash the bad movies he was in, he asked for a volunteer from the audience for something to be disclosed later. He chose me, no doubt because I looked the least like an obsessive fan that would go crazy when paired up with him on stage.
After going up there, he stated that I would be playing the Hollywood movie executive, and that he would pitch a movie to me. I agreed, and he stated that the movie would have so and so director, producers, etc. I figured out that it was Congo as soon as he mentioned the producers, and mentioning Michael Crichton solidified my assumption. Being the smartarse that I am, I stated that I wanted Kaminski as a cinematographer, but he glossed over that because it had nothing to do with the point he was making. After naming the people behind the movie, he asked if I would greenlight it – in which I responded, “Well…” only to be interrupted by “Hell yes you’re going to approve it – well guess what, you just greenlighted Congo!” I was thinking of mentioning that Congo DID make money so that I did good, but given the crowd and place, I thought against it. I shook his hand for about the 80th time that day, and walked off, knowing that I could now add “acting alongside Bruce Campbell” to my resume.
All in all, the evening ended up being quite good. I got plenty of writing material, a present for a friend, and I was also prompted to finally read his book that evening, which invigorated me in pursuing my goal of making my movie (so far, I’ve only gotten the scriptment done – I have a long way to go!). And I must say that was worth the guy sitting behind me laughing every time anyone said anything in the movie. Well, just barely.