Friday, January 10, 2014

Bubba Ho-Tep review

Since it's "Elvis week" I decided to re-post this here. It was originally written for Rockabilly Online.

"Today we’re honoring the memory of the King.  So I’m going to start this review by saying that I’m a huge fan of Elvis.  Elvis’s music is a big part of why I’m involved in this scene.  I’ve been to Graceland three times and I’m playing on a fourth visit as soon as I can.  When I’m a good mood, the music I always find myself listening to is that of Elvis Aaron Presley.

Having said all that, my favorite “Elvis” movie is not a movie that Elvis actually starred in. It’s more of a movie about Elvis (and by extension fame) than an actual “Elvis movie” really.  I am, of course talking about Don Coscarelli film version of Joe R. Lansdale’s Bubba Ho-Tep.

The movie stars cult icon Bruce Campbell as an aged Elvis Presley trapped in a Texas retirement home.   It seems the King got tired of the fame game and swapped places with an Elvis lookalike.  Instead of living the good life, free of the bullshit behind celebrity, Elvis broke his hip. Thus finding himself in a retirement home that’s really more of a limbo for some of our more iconic figures. Including JFK ( the great Ossie Davis) and the Lone Ranger (Larry Pennell).

To make matters worse, there is a mummy (duded up in western wear) picking off the residents of the home.  Leaving Elvis with a choice between  lying down and dying.  Or make one last stab at being the King.

Kudos to the filmmakers and cast for this movie.  It could have easily been a one note joke, but instead is actually a very touching story about finding redemption in your twilight years. This movie walks its tight rope act with perfect skill, all backed by a killer, rockabilly infused, score.

 For years horror fans have known that Bruce Campbell is better than the material he’s often given. Here he shines, actually making you believe that Elvis might actually be alive.  What he does her is far beyond a Vegas impersonator. He creates an Elvis that MIGHT have been. We never got to see Elvis live to old age.  Campbell gives us that image, even if it’s not always pretty.

Ossie Davis is also great as “JFK.”   Conspiracy buffs should get a kick out of this version of the oft told story.  But like Campbell’s Elvis, it’s more than just a one-note character. Davis plays Kennedy as a man grappling with regret and doubt.

This is a movie than transcends parody and becomes tribute.  I know a lot of Elvis fans who hate this movie because they feel like it is poking fun at their hero. But instead, I say it honors him. Allowing him to stand once more amongst  the living. Even if it is to fight the undead.   So today when you’re toasting the King, do yourself a favor and throw on Bubba Ho-Tep!"

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