Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Troy Duffy's The Boondock Saints struggled like mad to be an instant cult classic, throwing in everything bar the kitchen sink to try and grasp that niche market status, however, Bubba Ho-Tep succeeds effortlessly with just an idea. The insanely plotted comedy horror, in which an ageing Elvis Presley battles an Mummy with help from former President John F Kennedy, strikes the right balance between satire and the ludicrous nature of its own premise. Horror-icon and underrated character actor Bruce Campbell gives an outstanding performance as "The King", spending his twilight years in the Shady Rest Convalescence Home. After the initial set up it’s not long be the audience is regaled with soul sucking cadavers, outsized insects and Elvis doing karate.
Combining multiple genres, this creative and somewhat melancholic film explores themes such as fame, mortality and the way society treats the elderly. Like most comedy, when done well it can make some very succinct social statements as well as entertain. By featuring such iconic characters, the movie makes some subtle digs at pop culture and the cult of premature death. However as this is a horror film there are still scares courtesy of the undead titular individual, as he preys on the old and vulnerable. Bubba Ho-Tep also liberal helpings of killer dialogue from both Campbell and Ossie Davis, a black man who claims to be JFK. His change in ethnicity is all courtesy of a CIA plot.
Elvis: Ask not what your rest home can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rest home.
JFK: Hey, you're copying my best lines!
Elvis: Then let me paraphrase one of my own. Let's take care of business.
JFK: Just what are you getting at, Elvis?
Elvis: I think you know what I'm gettin' at Mr. President. We're gonna kill us a mummy.
Writer-director Don Coscarelli avoids a lot of pitfalls and cliches associated with the elderly, using Elvis's voiceover to move the narrative forward. "Get old, you can't even cuss someone and have it bother 'em. Everything you do is either worthless or sadly amusing." The proceedings are aided immensely by a superb score by Brian Tyler, which lends a great deal of emotional credence. The overall result is a cinematic oddity that showcases Mr Campbell's impressive Presley impersonation, while exploring all possible historical references associated with the protagonists. Gags about Marilyn Monroe, Lyndon B Johnson and chocolate dingdongs, abound. Bubba Ho-Tep will certainly not be everyone cup of tea, but will go down a storm with niche market fans and admirers of director Don Coscarelli.