Wookiee Hut Movie Reviews presents:
Bubba Ho-tep
Review by Diana, VagBoy

Director: Don Coscarelli

Screenplay: Don Coscarelli

Creator: Joe R. Lansdale

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Bob Ivy

Rating: Victory Star Destroyer (packs a wallop!)

We did not expect a lot from this film, not even that this would be a movie worth watching. For one, it was recommended to us by a guy at least one of us considers an idiot, who said, "It's stupid and funny! It's got undead in it like Army of Darkness!" Why should anyone watch anything an idiot considers stupid or funny? For another, this movie purports to be about Elvis, and those flicks tend to be poor, no matter what the budget. And another thing, when one thinks "Elvis," would one think Bruce Campbell??

Then again, we do love fanfic at the Hut, do we not? The screenplay is based on a short story by Lansdale, who also does television series screenwriting for such shows as Batman and Superman. The story was submitted for a competition in Tennessee and won, we believe ... anyway, it's an alternative reality story, set in our world but Elvis is alive. And so is JFK. They are old — sequestered in an East Texas nursing home just waiting to die.

How could this possibly happen? Try this one for size: What if Elvis had gotten tired of everything and traded places with an impersonator, and the impersonator had died before they could trade back? What if the conspiracy tales of JFK were all off mark because the real truth is so much stranger: he'd been dyed black and his cranial cavity stuffed with sand, connected to his real brain in Washington D.C. by wireless connection of some sort?

It does sound stupid. But it does sound like fanfic! It's kind of a comedy, but is treated much more seriously. It's a horror tale too, but treated as a sort of coming of age tale, where the critical age is the one you are just as you die. It's also a tearjerker about abandoned old folks who once led rich lives, who had won purple hearts, had daughters who might have loved them. Yeah, sounds hella lame. Can't even classify this tale into a genre!

And yet, Bruce Campbell is the King — prideful, sorrowful, destitute. Ossie Davis is JFK — aristocratic, determined, authoritative. Both believe they are who they are, and though the audience has the choice to believe them or not, we really can't help but believe the performances. It's not simply a costume thing, nor even mannerisms. Of course, what white man doesn't want to play Elvis, where there is no such thing as over the top? What black man wouldn't relish the chance to play John F. Kennedy??

In an old folks home, people die and no one thinks twice about it. This is, after all, the ideal place for people to come to await death, and it does come for them, but not as expected. The residents are being murdered, unless they are strong enough to keep possession of their souls ... that's right, something is eating their souls.

The nursing home has roaches as big as teacups; they look rounded and black, a lot like scarabs. Some residents can't run from the murderer since they are restrained in iron lungs or strapped to beds to keep them from thrashing around. They die without incident. Others fight, like the crazy old guy who thinks he's the Lone Ranger — he jumps out of bed with capguns blazing, mask and hat on. If you've got a big enough soul, you can die with it intact.

What makes a soul small or big? How much life is left in a person, apparently. In a place as demoralizing and depressing as an old age home where the elderly are abandoned by their kin, it'd harder to find smaller souls than are barely living here.

Much of the movie is ridiculous, but it actually has context. It's pieced together adroitly, like good fanfic. You know it's not real, but you kind of wish it really was, because the movie does portray the fat, cancerous Elvis as a man who needs to be a hero, even when he needs a walker to support himself as he stalks the one who would eat his soul. We all wish Elvis was still alive, even though comedian Denis Leary (who rather resembles Campbell if you think about it) points out that even Jesus would have been an abusive prick if he'd lived too long. But Elvis died before he was able to come of age, and that's sad. This movie gives him redemption, in a sense. It's a requiem to the king.

Okay, so the ridiculous title and way-out concept is enough to put most people off. The film had a limited budget (which is why no Elvis music or movies are actually played in the course of the movie — too expensive), and even the special effects were done at cost as a favor to the director. It had a limited release of 30+ copies, thus you'd never seen it in theaters or even on television. But it's out on DVD, and you should buy or rent it. It's a great film, everyone who has seen it agrees — even the idiots among our friends. It's hard to describe: funny, but not a comedy; tragic, but not quite a drama; scary, but not really a horror. It's said to be based on The Singing Detective; will have to watch that next, if so!

The only thing we thought was really dumb was the shot just before Elvis says, "Thank you ... thank you very much ..." Actually, that part was dumb, too. But you'll like everything else!

By the way, this film is nothing like Army of Darkness, leading us to believe that the idiot who recommended this film hadn't even seen it. Sometimes, your sources can be right for all the wrong reasons.

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