Bubba Ho-Tep

2003, Movie, R, 92 mins


So, John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and a mummy meet in a nursing home... the premise of Don Coscarelli's truly offbeat genre hybrid sounds like a setup for a bar joke, but it delicately straddles the line between rueful comedy and melancholy horror. Deep in Mud Creek, East Texas, a rundown rest home that unwittingly shelters two of the most famous dead people in the world, Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and Jack Kennedy (Ossie Davis), is plagued by a rash of suspicious deaths. Actually, no one's all that suspicious — the deceased were all old and infirm. But Elvis is suspicious: He's seen a mighty peculiar individual stalking — all right, shuffling around — the place at night, and found himself locked in mortal, mano-a-mano combat with one hell of a big scarab beetle the very night another resident died. Not that anyone believes him — they don't even believe he's Elvis, despite his perfectly good explanation as to how the King wound up in Mud Creek. Back in the '70s he got tired of the pressures of 24/7 celebrity and made a deal with an Elvis impersonator who was supposed to fill in for a while so he could take a break. But a fire destroyed their contract and the fake Elvis went and had that vulgar overdose on the toilet — now everyone knows Elvis is dead, except that he's really a cranky, forgotten 68-year-old with a pus-filled growth on his manhood. The only person who believes Elvis is his neighbor, Jack, and Jack has his peculiarities. He believes he's JFK, and tells some cockamamie story that "explains" how the 35th president of the United States came to be stuck in a godforsaken nursing facility, looking like an elderly African-American man. Nevertheless, any ally is better than none, and Jack knows Elvis isn't imaging things — he's seen the intruder too, and together they figure out that the home's elderly residents are being preyed on by a soul-sucking mummy. With no other recourse, the codgers join forces to send the mummy back where it came from, and never have two monster slayers been so grateful that mummies are notoriously slow on their feet. Based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, this low-key oddity stresses character over broad laughs and shock effects, allowing Campbell and Davis to develop a quirky rapport that's a real pleasure to watch. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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