Monster of the Week: Bubba Ho-Tep (Bubba Ho-Tep) – 2002 | New 5th Edition Monster

Cleopatra does the nasty.

It’s hard not to like a horror flick that stars Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) portraying an aging Elvis Presley (presumably) as he is stalked by an Ancient Egyptian mummy. Why you may ask? Because the mummy needs to suck the souls out of mortals to keep on keepin’ on. Did I mention, the mummy sucks the victim’s souls out of their butt-holes?

Yes, it’s that kind of horror-comedy.

The plot of 2002‘s Bubba Ho-Tep is zany to say the least: Campbell, aged and bed-ridden and claiming to be the real Elvis, grows increasingly suspicious something is going on at his Texas Retirement home. Ossie Davis, Campbell’s elderly neighbor who claims to be the ‘black-faced’ Kennedy, secretly hidden after the ‘failed’ assassination attempt, eventually clues Elvis in that a mummy is stalking the halls and stealing the souls (through their butts) of their fellow geezers. Once Campbell faces the grim truth that his home is all he has left, he teams up with Ossie to take down the no-good mummy and send him packing.

While it’s presumed that Campbell’s character is telling the truth, the nature of the film, including its bizarre cut-scenes, mocking tone and Ossie’s obviously fraudulent identity calls into question just how reliable a narrator this ‘Elvis’ is. However, even this questionable King just adds another layer to the film’s ponderous commentary .

Campbell and Davis, hiding out in an Old-Folk’s home as the ‘real’ Elvis and J.F.K.

Despite its entire premise being laughably ridiculous on its face, Director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm II, III, IV, Ravager) takes the material completely serious, apart of course from all the dick jokes, delivering a slow, methodical story more interested in the character’s internal struggles than their fight against the mummy. In fact, the self-effacing potty-mouth nature of the film’s dialogue frames the character’s predicament with a heavy dose of classic gallows humor. Amidst this tone, the plot unfolds carefully, letting each on-screen character feel grounded, even amidst the absurdity of its world. It’s a sharply written, well acted and surprisingly profound film despite it’s low-brow humor. The mummy, which could easily be construed as simply the fantastical projection of Campbell coming to grips with his own mortality, makes only scant appearances, leaving much of the tale to being a reflection on the character’s views and outlooks on life, chiefly death, aging and the cult of celebrity.

Not only are we given a glimpse into Elvis’s love-hate relationship with his presumed fame and his apparent regrets over his family, we are also offered casual and comedic insights courtesy of Ossie’s paranoid Kennedy as well as the side characters peppered throughout the film. For instance, medical officers who come to retrieve the mummy’s victims have a running discussion over the lives of the Retirement Facility’s residents, with one character actively pondering their impact on the world and the other shrugging it off as a pointless waste of time. In their banter, we see the film’s awareness of the seriousness of the conversation at hand – what does it mean to live?

Comedy interwoven with meaningful observations about life are a tough balancing act for any film, let alone a horror one, but Bubba Ho-Tep pulls it off with relative ease. Not without its flaws, for instance the film feels a tad too long, dragging in parts and occasionally having made-for-t.v. cinematography, Bubba Ho-Tep is a quirky rendition of the classic Mummy tale, sandwiched into a philosophical discussion about meaning and meaningless in the world at large. By no stretch a Shaun of the Dead, or Tucker and Dale, it’s a definite contender for high-place finisher in the all-time Horror Comedy Hall of Fame and worth a watch.

And for our purposes, it gives us a nice, low-level, bumbling mummy to throw at players – and a perfect justification to tell them to Eat the Dog Dick of Anubis!

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Like music? Me too – it would serve me right getting my soul sucked out of my butt if I didn’t add The King to the mix in honor of this flick – so this week’s song is Suspicious Minds by Mister, Elvis Presley. Thankyouverymuch

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