A/V Room









Bubba Ho-Tep - Preview and US reaction

Preview by: Jack Foley

BUBBA Ho-Tep boasts one of the weirdest scenarios of recent years, and has become a firm cult classic since its release in the States last year, but it looked set to become lost in straight to DVD hell in the UK for ages.

Now, though, thanks to distributor, Anchor Bay UK, it appears that fans of Bruce Campbell are in for a treat come October.

The scenario finds Campbell as the ‘real’ Elvis Aaron Presley, now stuck in a senior citizens retirement facility in Mud Creek, Texas, and cursing the decision he made, back in the 1970s, to swap roles for a while with one of his best look-alikes, who promptly died of a drug overdose, in 1977.

His inability to convince anyone of his plight provides a continual source of frustration, although he finds a friend in Jack (Ossie Davis), an African-American man who claims to be former President John F Kennedy.

The two don’t have much time to dwell on their misfortune, however, given that a mysterious figure seems to be lurking about the home at night, sucking out the souls of the frail people who live there.

Deciding to investigate the deaths, before they become the latest victims, Elvis and Jack discover Egyptian grafitti in the men's room that suggests they're dealing with some sort of soul-sucking mummy... a Bubba Ho-Tep (hence the name).

So far, so utterly crazy. The film has been directed by Don Coscarelli, who hopes to be able to turn it into another franchise, rather like his previous Phantasm movies.

And the ending certainly promises a sequel, called Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires, with the oh-so busy Coscarelli also hinting at a concept for a third film, Bubba Sasquatch, which might find Elvis heading to the north woods to help somebody fight a tribe of killer Bigfoots.

It all sounds completely surreal, but maybe quite wonderful. If various online sources are to be believed, it is well worth checking out, if only to see Evil Dead stalwart, Campbell, delivering another memorable turn as the ageing rock ‘n’ roll king.


US reaction

Amazingly, the film went down a storm among critics who had the chance to catch up with it, in America.

The Hollywood Reporter, for instance, referred to it as ‘a zinger-filled crowd-pleaser that open-minded Elvis fans (but by no means all) will have fun with’.

While the New York Post felt that ‘it's a credit to the actors, particularly the superb Campbell, that completely preposterous material can be made strangely touching’.

The San Francisco Chronicle found it to be ‘surprisingly good as a quirky triumph of human spirit’.

While the Chicago Sun-Times stated that ‘it has the damnedest ingratiating way of making us sit there and grin at its harebrained audacity, laugh at its outhouse humour, and be somewhat moved (not deeply, but somewhat) at the poignancy of these two old men and their situation’.

And Newsday concluded that ‘the movie deserves its advance cult status because of its antic humor and, of course, Campbell's Elvis’.

But the Los Angeles Times felt that ‘writer-director, Don Coscarelli, maker of such potent cult films as Phantasm and The Beastmaster, fails to come up with enough incidents and action to make this overly leisurely picture the zany fun it means to be’.

While Entertainment Weekly lamented that ‘Coscarelli, writer-director of the logy, fatuous Bubba Ho-Tep, is trying to will a cult movie into existence - which, of course, never works’.

But the Washington Post opined that, ‘in the end, what keeps it going is not the story but the delicious relationship between Elvis and JFK’.

And the Boston Globe wrote that ‘Coscarelli… is a sure-footed B-movie journeyman, and for Bubba Ho-Tep, he’s in generously lunatic mood’.

The final word, however, goes to Denver Post, which stated that ‘Bubba Ho-Tep succeeds as goofy-yet- tender wish fulfillment, offering an Elvis who tries to redeem his self-indulgent persona and become a hero. It fails as the sort of Campbell vehicle that wears out VCRs and haunts midnight-movie houses’.

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