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  thursday
163
  february 5
2004
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Nasty in Pink: The Truth About Sara
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Bush Finds the Primary Clue Too Late
 
 
 

 theReel
 
Hail to the King, Baby
 
by Jordan Scrivner

“Bubba Ho-tep”
Silver Sphere Corporation
Written and directed by Don Coscarelli, based on the short story by John R. Lansdale
Produced by Jason R. Savage and Don Coscarelli
Starring Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Reggie Bannister, Ella Joyce and Heidi Marnhout
Rated R

Now playing at the Tower

(out of four)

Bruce Campbell in the role he was born to play!

Saying that now, it seems pretty damn obvious. If you’ve ever seen Bruce Campbell or any of his classic cult films such as the “Evil Dead” trilogy, composed of “The Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness” (if you haven’t seen ’em, kill yourself now), you could see that he couldn’t play anything but the King of Rock and Roll. With his B-movie good looks (and résumé) and the most famous chin in film-geek history, Campbell was a shoo-in to play Elvis Presley. I actually met the man once, and somewhere in this colossal universe of ours is a picture of me and the future/ former King of Rock and Roll in a Borders bookstore.

In “Bubba Ho-tep,” Elvis Presley is alive and well and living in an East Texas rest home called Shady Rest. His day is composed of dignity-destroying acts like having the end of his cancerous penis rubbed with some unknown goo by the head nurse (character actress Ella Joyce) and watching his roommates die off one after another. In the meantime, he thinks about the glory days of his life as the King and how he once traded all that away for a simple life and friends who wouldn’t stab him in the back.

But something is rotten in the state of Shady Rest as the King begins to receive strange visions of some kind of Egyptian spirit in boots and a Stetson. His fellow rest home residents begin to drop off a little more often than usual. With the help of the former (and black—“They dyed me this color!”) John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis), Elvis gets to the bottom of the mysterious soul-sucking mummy. It’s a bit like Scooby-Doo meets every conspiracy nuts’ wet dream.

The plot of the movie may sound completely ridiculous and believe me, it is, but director Don Coscarelli, director of the “Phantasm” film series and creator of Beastmaster, takes the ridiculous plot seriously. So do the actors, treating their characters with dignity and respect. As silly as it seems, the filmmakers make the audience feel like this unlikely scenario really could take place, and that it really is the King and the president battling evil on the silver screen.

Based on the Bram Stoker Award (horror story equivalent of the PEN/Faulkner Award)-nominated short story by John R. Lansdale, “Bubba Ho-tep” is a hysterical trip into the ultimate “what if” tale. Lansdale and Coscarelli have dug deep into the lives of the characters and have brought a sense of reality into the fantastic world the characters inhabit.

“I know you never liked me,” JFK says when trying to explain the mummy’s curse to Elvis, “but I need you to believe me.”

The movie isn’t perfect, of course. I mean, it’s no “Army of Darkness.” The film’s climax is a bit disappointing and the humor differentiates between genius and cheeseball. Of course, what’s a Bruce Campbell movie with a little cheese thrown in for good measure? I’d almost be disappointed if I didn’t groan once or twice during his films.

“Bubba Ho-tep” is proof positive that you don’t need a budget to make an intriguing and hilarious film. You do, however, need a wonderful script and an exceptionally talented cast.

Unfortunately, Big Hollywood doesn’t want us to believe that, and that’s why jaw-droppingly good films like “Bubba Ho-tep” that use minimal computer effects and have lines like “Don’t ever, ever, fuck with the King!” only get seven prints made while cinematic jerk-off films like “Torque” are shown in cinemas from coast to coast. That’s why I’m asking you, yes you, to go see “Bubba Ho-tep” as your patriotic duty. It’s what the King would have wanted.
jordan@red-mag.com

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