Bubba Ho-Tep

Bubba Ho-TepThere really hasn’t been a BIGGER — not to mention WEIRDER — little movie in quite a spell. Most quality genre pictures enjoy modest festival and theatrical runs before blossoming on home video. Flicks such as May, Ginger Snaps and Cube. The same would be true for this bizarro backwoods tale if not for one Bruce Campbell who, thanks to a certain slapstick horror trilogy, has become the latter-day King of the Bs (Sorry, Mr. Corman). Particularly due to his industry fanbase, various production-value enhancing contributions were extended, on the cheap, where they otherwise wouldn’t.

His exceedingly fortuitous If Chins Could Kill book tour also allowed Campbell to tout the flick before already enraptured fans, this snowballed into ecstatic word-of-web, which in turn, was enthusiastically seconded as early critical reviews began to glow. Exactly the sort of "buzz" high-dollar Hollywood marketeers slave to manufacture every week. While here it was legit AND netted the same desired result: hineys in seats. Nationwide!

Could this and mainstream’d misfits such as Cabin Fever and House of 1000 Corpses signal a clawing regeneration of fringe cinema at the multiplex? If so, will the schlockmeisters of the ’60s and ’70s beget buzzmeisters in the aughts? Meaning, can these flicks gain box-office ground without the likes of fan-friendly frontmen Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Mr. Campbell (or, rather, Elvis Aaron Presley)? We shall see.

The movie: Our story takes us to Mud Creek, Texas where there’s somethin’ strange in the neighborhood. Shuffling snake-skin ropers down the halls of the Shady Rest nursing home is an Egyptian MUMMY, a "Bubba" Ho-Tep (Bob Ivy), who favors Westernwear, presumably to blend in amongst the redneck residents whose souls he sucks, for his own reasons, from the darkest reaches of their keisters. Now, old folks croaking in the wee hours ain’t much cause for suspicion at all, so ol’ Bubba just might’ve gotten away with his kinky resurrection routine too if not for the meddling of Elvis, JFK and, to a lesser degree, The Lone Ranger (Larry Pennell)! It’s hard to do much damage saddled with a pair of kiddie cap guns.

Wait a goldang minute … THE KING LIVES!?! Yep, but don’t go spreading that around. Mr. Campbell’s geriatric, laughably less-than-velvet Elvis is dern near bedridden and prone to hound-dog introspection such as "Get old, you can’t even cuss someone and have it bother ’em. Everything you do is either worthless or sadly amusing." That is until a giant, flying cockroach — and mummy minion — coaxes the former hunka-hunka burnin’ love into a little King fu.

Oh, President Kennedy didn’t check out in Dealy Plaza after all and, nowadays, he’s BLACK!!! "They dyed me this color!," explains the ever-regal Ossie Davis whose JFK first assumes the Ace-Bandaged killer is another of Lyndon Johnson‘s henchmen come to finish the job. But self-preservation soon gives way to heroism as Jack, in his wheelchair, and Big E, with his walker, triumphantly creak up to defend the Shady Rest from Backdoor Bubba. And, in the end, the man hisself sums it up country simple: "Never, but NEVER, f@#& with The King!!!"

CineSchlockers will be particularly pleased to see director Don Coscarelli behind such a bona fide phenom. Since his 1979 triumph Phantasm (an illusive yet DVD Talk Collectors Series-worthy disc), Don’s dutifully devoted himself to the further exploits of The Tall Man and his silver spheres-o-sufferin’ via three sequels — nine, six and four years apart. There for all of ’em was CineSchlocker fave Reggie Bannister who’s easily spotted as the Shady Rest’s largely disinterested administrator. Might not recognize her from behind, but Heidi Marnhout was also in Phantasm IV: Oblivion. The list goes on, heck, the HEARSE which carts away Bubba’s soul-suck’d victims was featured in Parts 3 and 4. Even Bruce Campbell has been rumored to take part in the long-stalled Phantasm’s End, although Bubba prequels are far more likely — with vampires and, gulp, BIGFOOT among possible opponents. By the bye: Jason vs. Freddy vs. Ash, anyone?

Notables: Two breasts. Seven corpses. Panty flinging. Geriatric larceny. Gratuitous slow-mo strutting. Multiple flashback sequences. Gratuitous urination. Fast mo. Pie munching. Multiple firesuit stunts. Bathroom hieroglyphics. Watch synchronizing. Wangdoodle manipulation. Egyptian nose mining.

Quotables: Even a fine filly like Ms. Marnhout doesn’t know rock ‘n’ roll royalty when she sees it: "The revealin’ of her panties wasn’t intentional or unintentional. She just didn’t give a damn. She saw me as so physically and sexually non-threatenin’ she didn’t mind if I got a bird’s eye view of her love nest!"

Elvis attempts to clarify the state of the home’s pest-control problem: "Look, man. Do I look like a icky-ologist to you? Big damn bugs, alright? The size of my fist! The size of a peanut butter and banana sandwich, man!"

Time to TCB: "Mr. Kennedy, ask not what your rest home can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rest home … Let’s take care of bid’ness."