No News is Bad News. Join the SA Current Press Club.

Cinema Obscura 

“Old Elvis and black JFK fighting a mummy in an East Texas nursing home.”

That should be all you need to know about the incredible awesomeness that is Bubba Ho-Tep. But since this is a 300-word column, a little elaboration might be necessary. After all, while cult and horror fans will be out the door in search of a copy by the next paragraph, some readers will need a harder push to give a movie as wacky and over-the-top as Bubba Ho-Tep a chance.

So here goes: Elvis (B-movie king Bruce Campbell, in a role he was born for) didn’t die after one too many peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches — that guy was an impersonator with whom the real Elvis switched identities in the ’70s. Now a septuagenarian, Elvis is living his miserable last days with no one believing he is the real King — and his only friend is an elderly African-American man (Davis) who claims to be JFK. When a thousands-year-old mummy (christened “Bubba Ho-Tep” by Elvis) shows up to suck out the souls of the rest-home residents, only a king and a former president can stop him.

OK, so it sounds bonkers. (It is.) But even more crazy was the decision by director Don Coscarelli to treat Texan writer Joe Lansdale’s high-camp premise like it’s The Notebook. The nursing-home scenes are depressingly bleak (if Bubba Ho-Tep doesn’t kill the patients, Elvis observes, then time and indifference surely will), the scarab-beetle fight is a perfect blend of suspense and slapstick, and the final showdown is tense and scary.

While Elvis and JFK get plenty of laughs (Elvis: “No offense, Jack, but President Kennedy was a white man.” JFK: “They dyed me this color! That’s how clever they are!”), they’re never the butt of the joke. Campbell and Davis (in one of his final roles) portray their characters with a surprising amount of dignity and grace, and if you can look past the low-budget scarab puppets and rubbery mummy suit, you’ll find that Bubba Ho-Tep is a potent parable about aging, friendship, and mortality.

(Just in case that last sentence lost the B-movie horror fans: Bubba Ho-Tep sucks souls through his victims’ assholes. Go watch it!)

San Antonio Current works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of San Antonio and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep San Antonio's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 13, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 San Antonio Current

Website powered by Foundation