Somewhere in East Texas, an elderly Elvis Presley lies in bed at a retirement home, day in and day out. Where his only concerns in life is getting people to believe he is Elvis and not Sebastian Haff, and the ever growing pus-filled cancer on the end of his penis. That all changes when an ancient Egyptian mummy shows up and starts sucking the souls out of the rectums of the tenants. Now it's up to Elvis and his fellow retiree Jack, who claims to be JFK, to stop the mummy, Bubba Ho-Tep, from sucking out the souls of all their friends.
When it comes to horror movies there is one name that is always guaranteed to send fans fluttering, of course I speak of Bruce Campbell. When "Bubba Ho-Tep" was announced, the movie gained an instantaneous fan base not just because of the huge following for the "Evil Dead" movies. It was also a break of his TV career and returning to what he is known and loved for; low-budget, independent horror movies. Not to mention the idea behind "Bubba Ho-Tep" is a quirky one; an elderly Elvis taking on a mummy in a retirement center. Now there is one hell of an idea.
Even though the main plot sounds absolutely ridiculous, "Bubba Ho-Tep" was expected and often still is, to be a campy-over-the-top horror flick with the hopes of gore, much like Campbell's previous titles. I'm sure to the disappointment to many people; "Bubba Ho-Tep" isn't like that at all. Sure, it is on the campy side given that the movie is about Elvis as an old man, fighting a mummy in a retirement home somewhere in East Texas. Once you get beyond that is where you'll find the heart of the movie, which makes the viewing experience almost as unique as the idea behind it.
Most notably, is the fact our heroes in this absurd tale are two elderly men. The first being our main character (played by Bruce Campbell), a man who looks and sounds like Elvis and tells everyone that he is indeed the legend himself. Unfortunately, everyone believes that he is in fact Sebastian Haff, a once well known Elvis impersonator who supposedly switched places with the real Elvis. The other character being a elderly black man (played by Ossie Davis), who tells everyone that he is the former President, John F. Kennedy, but due to a government conspiracy was turned black and had part of his brain removed. Naturally with such a strange idea for a movie, we should be given characters that are just as strange, but really, these two men make the movie. Not only is it refreshing that the main characters are a couple of retirees, instead of it being teenagers or young adults. The movie puts more of a focus on them, and having the story with the mummy becoming secondary, up until the final act in the movie. Since the focus is on these two characters, "Bubba Ho-Tep" becomes more than just a horror movie, but almost a character drama with a light touch of social commentary. As it is about two old men who are stuck in a nursing home and are left there, alone, and kept there until they finally pass away. Because of the extraordinary situation that they are stuck in, they decide to take control, to actually get out of bed and have a life again. With Elvis/Haff, we watch as he progress from a man who lays in bed all day and felt sorry for himself, question the decisions he made in life. To a man who is going to stop living in the past and a life of regrets, and become an actual hero and save the lives of his fellow senior citizens. Looking at all that, we are actually able to connect with the characters, we actually want to follow them on their adventure and root for them when it comes time to do battle with the mummy. Not to mention long after the movie is over, you'll still be talking about the movie, debating on whether or not either man is actually who they say they are. Is Elvis actually Elvis, or is he Sebastian Haff who is suffering greatly from delusions and has come to believe he is indeed Elvis? Is Jack actually John F. Kennedy, and the victim of a great government cover-up? Who knows? In the end, the movie leaves it up to the audience to decide whether or not these men are who they say they are, or not.
For the actual horror portion of the movie; it too was rather refreshing since mummies have taken a back seat as the main monster in horror movies. Sure we had those awful mummy flicks from Stephen Sommers, but not just because of how truly awful they were and they were meant to be action/adventure movies rather than horror, they really don't count. Going back to the original point I was trying to make, it was nice to see a mummy horror flick again but also since it put a different spin on it by having it end up at a retirement center, and for comedy purposes, walk around in cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat. Even with the mummy being the horror part of the story, it really isn't all that scary since the mummy lives by sucking the soul out of his victims through their rectums, and one point, even writes hieroglyphic graffiti on a bathroom stall wall while taking a dump. Thankfully it isn't actually shown, only the graffiti is. So unfortunately, it isn't pure horror like in the days of Boris Karloff but it has just enough of a horror element to be creepy at times and get a jump scare out of us here and there and blends in well enough with the movie's comedy side.
That is what allows "Bubba Ho-Tep" to be such an entertaining watch. It takes what sounds like a ludicrous idea, and pulls it off because it blends in the right amount of both horror and comedy that will appeal all viewers and can be viewed even by the younger members in audience. Because of the well crafted and executed characters in the movie, you can't help but instantly be drawn in. Not to mention the fact that Bruce Campbell is Elvis; he provides even more humor from his portrayal of an old man by using the cornball antics of Elvis, and delivering several memorable one-liners and hilarious dialogue. The only thing I can think of that detours people from enjoying "Bubba Ho-Tep" is because of its attention to the characters, it is a slow paced flick, and it isn't a gory, over-the-top, cheese-fest about a mummy terrorizing a group of people.