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Saturday, 11 August 2007

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) Don Coscarelli

After working through all three Evil Dead movies this week, it seemed appropriate to dig up Bubba Ho-Tep again. I haven't seen this since my first time through back in 2005 but I'm still talking about it. It seemed completely other than anything else I'd ever seen and it would be interesting to see if it would work as well on a second time through. It's crude and irreverent but funny as hell and it's one of those films you watch while wondering just what the hell you're watching.

I've seen a lot of horror movies that start out with old newsreel footage of ancient Eygptian discoveries, but this is the only one that continues with Bruce Campbell as an old and bloated Elvis Presley in a Texas old folks home wondering about the growth on his pecker. We're never really sure whether he really is Elvis or just someone who thinks he's Elvis, but after all the conspiracy theories out there about the King the explanation of this one isn't so far fetched. Then again his sidekick turns out to be Ossie Davis who plays JFK as an old black man with a bag of sand replacing part of his brain. Anyway Elvis and JFK team up to fight a resurrected ancient evil that's stalking the care home.

An old woman with a cane steals the glasses of another old woman in an iron lung so we're not too upset when she turns out to be victim number one, but that in itself is so telling that the whole mummy angle is hardly important in the grand scheme of things. This is a horror movie, but it's far more important as insight into questions like fame, time, age and identity.

This Elvis is apparently Sebastian Haff, a former Elvis impersonator, but he claims that he's the real Elvis who traded his identity with Haff to get away from the spotlight. Naturally the people he tells can't believe that anyone would voluntarily give up all that fame, money and celebrity status, but of course that's precisely the point. As he reflects, why doesn't fame hold off age or death? When you're old, everything you do is either worthless or sadly amusing. It's only when something finally sparks his interest that life starts kicking back into gear.

Having almost everyone in the film be old, incapable, crazy or all three is a real departure for modern cinema. That's surprising enough, but having that be true for a modern genre film is even more amazing. You just don't see this stuff. And behind all the crudity and ancient Egyptian mummies, there's so many questions. Why are souls smaller in a rest home? Why do people care about their parents enough to check them into a facility but not care enough to go and visit them? On the flipside why do parents care about their kids but never be there for them?

Here we see even the helpless preying on the helpless in a world apart from the one we're comfortable in, and everyone exposed for who they really are, and every single one of us when we dig deep has a lot that we're proud of and a lot that we'd be happy to hide. Maybe a film dealing with such blatant realities beyond our comfort levels should be crude and irreverent. It's ferociously original and it's powerfully true. In fact for such an outrageously fantastic story, it's actually truer than most films.

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