Hey folks, Harry here... Vern sent in a review for a movie I've just plum never heard of? From the sound of it, I'm shocked we haven't. I mean a Bruce Campbell movie left uncovered by AICN? Hey Zeus Morales! Ya know? And with Don Coscarelli, you'd think Quint might've reported in, but that lazy bastard's been holding out on us! Well, no more. Vern here is breaking what can only be a conspiracy of silence at the very heights of the corporate whores at AICN, and he's breaking that door down to tell you folks for the first time about BUBBA HO-TEP... A film that studios everywhere are conspiring to keep from you. The bastards! Here ya go... Thank Beezlebub for Vern!
Like I promised I'm back with more incredibly insightful and well Written SIFF coverage and last night I went to the midnight show of BUBBA HO TEP. I know you guys have already reviewed the shit out of this movie but personally I never read any of those reviews because I was waiting for me to review it. And I sincerely doubt I was the only one. So here it is folks, your very first look at BUBBA HO TEP.
The first thing you have to know about BUBBA HO TEP is that it is the director of PHANTASM and BEASTMASTER doing a movie where Bruce Campbell plays an elderly Elvis Presley in a rest home who teams up with Ossie Davis who thinks he's JFK and they fight a mummy wearing a cowboy hat who tries to suck old people's souls out of their assholes.
Actually, that's the only thing you need to know about the movie. I trust that I have sold all of you. The end.
Now some of you may be asking, who the hell is Bruce Campbell and why should I care? Well, Bruce Campbell is a phenomenon that hasn't quite hit the internet yet, but I predict that some day he will have a bit of a cult following here. You would probaly recognize him if you saw him, he was in the opening scene of CONGO and one time he was on an episode of X-FILES. Also he did a remake of one of the Herbie the Lovebug movies for TV and a ripoff of TWISTER. It's hard to explain but some day you will see some of his movies and like his delivery of oneliners so much that you will become embarassingly worshipful of him, saying "Bruce Campbell is GOD!!!" and going on every talkback demanding that Bruce Campbell play every character in every movie ever, especially if that character is Spider-man, Super-Man, Bat-man or Daredevil-man. And then you will remember that it was ol' Vern that turned you onto Bruce Campbell and you will thank me.
No don't worry I'm just shitting you, I know you people are obsessed with Bruce because of EVIL DEAD. But apparently the Seattle International Film Festival doesn't know that because BUBBA HO TEP is one of the few movies they only scheduled one show of. Of course it was one of the first screeningss of the festival to sell out and there was a long line of optimistic hardcores waiting outside failing to get rush tickets.
When I first heard about this movie I thought two things:
1. How in fuck's name did they get Ossie Davis to do this movie and
B) What a goofy ass idea for a movie.
What I didn't realize is that this wasn't just some silly high concept b-movie idea, it's actually an adaptation of a short story by Joe R. Lansdale. Now I never heard of the dude before but maybe you have Harry because he's from Texas and he invented a martial art. Most ofl the great horror pictures of the classic era are based on literature, from DRACULA to FRANKENSTEIN to THE INVISIBLE MAN and this is the same kind of deal. The only difference is that it has Elvis and alot of it is about him being sad that he can't get a boner. There's alot of internal dialogue in an Elvis voice. It feels very literary like it must be very faithful to the original short story. Still I wouldn't be surprised if years down the line we get a highÃ±minded big budget Francis Ford Coppola produced remake called Joe R. Lansdale's Bubba Ho Tep.
This movie is not your typical Elvis and JFK vs. mummy in a nursing home movie and that's what really impressed me about it. It doesn't really take as much of a silly slapstick approach as you might expect. For starters, it has kind of a languid pace and low key action that is appropriate to a movie where the heroes are in a nursing home. Elvis spends alot of the movie in bed, and when he does decide to go out and take on the mummy he does it with the aid of a walker and a wheelchair.
I gotta be honest, I am not a fan of mummies. All that Egyptian shit is great and Boris Karloff's makeup was incredible. But then the mummy sits most of the movie out and when he's there he's just this crumbling old corpse that walks slower than Jason Voorhees and without the ability to magically catch up anyway. Even the Hammer mummy movies are boring and of course I don't need to tell you that the more recent mummy movie with whatsisname, Harry's co-star from MONKEY BONE, was one of the most moronic and ineffective pieces of big budget garbage and filth that any of us have ever had to sit through that was not directed by Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich.
That's part of the genius of this movie though because a) the suckiness of mummies allows the film to center on the heroes instead of the villains, which is rare in horror. And second of all, some slow walking mummy asshole is a pretty good physical match for a fat old man who can barely walk. It's a fair fight.
The direction is solid and they treat the subject with a fairly straight face. There are some pretty good atmospheric scenes of the rest home at night where they make rest homes seem creepy like empty hospitals or abandoned insane asylums or haunted slaughterhouses. As you'd expect, there's plenty of pop iconography type of crap, lots of little jokes about Elvis and JFK, like Elvis working "thankyouveramuch" into conversations or JFK keeping framed mugshots of Lee Harvey Oswald in his room. These were the crowdpleasing moments. I liked how Elvis feebly puts on his trademark gold glasses in order to see, and how he still knows karate.
But what impressed me most about the movie was that it was less of a caricature of Elvis than you'd expect. This is definitely going to be remembered as one of Mr. Campbell's great roles outside of Ashley in the EVIL DEAD pictures. We all love him because of his great physical acting in EVIL DEAD 2 and his cocky delivery of one liners. But usually he's playing the same character. Here he tries to actual transform into Elvis and he ends up with a more multi-layered performance. On the first layer it's an Elvis impersonation but on the next layer he has to convey his loneliness, his guilt about leaving his family and his embarassment about the pathetic state of his body and/or penis. He is also playing a character that is much older and fatter than he is, and has to do action scenes as a feeble old man. He manages to pull all of these things off. Elvis has been an old joke since before most of the newsies were even born, but by making him a sympathetic character first and the king of rock n roll second Mr. Campbell turns him into a great screen character.
And let's be honest, as much as we all love Bruce the guy hasn't had that many truly good roles. There's Ash, and I thought the bank robbery picture RUNNING TIME was pretty good, and he was funny in those crappy tv shows he used to do, and then there's uh... I mean he was on HOMICIDE once. That's about it. Most of his movies there's no fuckin way any of you guys would watch them if somebody else was starring. It's not his fault, he does a good job but let's just be frankly honest here. And as long as we're doing that let's admit that EVIL DEAD 2 is the best of the trilogy and ARMY OF DARKNESS is the worst, and the theatrical cut of ARMY is way better than the director's cut. Please agree in talkbacks below thank you.
So Bruce makes this movie but almost as important is Ossie Davis as the guy who thinks he's JFK. I thought the idea would be that JFK's brain was implanted into a different body, but no, this character believes that he is the body of JFK but that his brain has been replaced by a bag of sand. And that Lyndon Johnson is chasing him. Ossie Davis plays the character with all the conviction you would imagine from Ossie Davis and that makes it hilarious. Elvis knows this guy's a nutcase but he's the only guy who believes that he's actually Elvis, so there is a bond that is pretty sweet.
One thing I noticed, there is no Elvis music in the movie. I guess they probaly couldn't get the rights, just like KURT AND COURTNEY. The Elvis estate did not want people to know the truth.
The way the movie ends it is hard to imagine they would do a sequel, which is kind of too bad. It leaves alot of unanswered questions, like why the hell is the mummy wearing a cowboy hat, and how in fuck's name did they get Ossie Davis to do this movie?
Anyway, this is a little more serious and thoughtful than you might expect but the kids at the SIFF midnight show behaved themselves and seemed to love it. So when you go see this movie, on my recommendation not because you were already planning to, I don't think you will be disappointed.