Where does an idea like this come from? An aged Elvis awakens from a twenty year coma to team up with Black JFK against a re-animated Egyptian mummy? Let’s start with the film’s writer: Joe R. Lansdale. Wikipedia describes Lansdale as an American author and martial-arts expert. Who better to write a film about Elvis than a man that shares a passion with the King for the arts and the martial arts? Lansdale is perhaps best known for his darkly comic short stories and for penning several episodes of Batman: the Animated Series. What began life as a novella, Bubba Ho-Tep was picked up by cult filmmaker Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster) and cast with America’s favorite son: Bruce Campbell.
Bruce Campbell plays “The King”, but if you’re asking the individuals of the Shady Rest Retirement Home, he is the King of Crazy: Sebastian Shaff. According to Shaff (let’s call him Elvis from here on out), in the 70s he escaped the demands of fame by switching names and places with an Elvis impersonator. After a brief retirement, the impersonator died and Elvis became unable to prove his identity after a propane accident destroyed all his documentation. Elvis then fell into a coma after botched hip surgery. He awakens thirty years later and finds himself pitted against an escaped museum mummy invading the retirement home.
I know, I know. This all sounds absolutely ridiculous. Elvis fighting a mummy? It doesn’t sound like it should work but it does. It does because this movie has heart. Most of this heart comes from a warm performance from none other than Ossie Davis. Ossie plays a wheelchair bound resident of Shady Rest who believes he was once John F. Kennedy. According to him, the government dyed his skin black and then dumped him in a retirement home to hide him after his assasination. JFK and Elvis form a quirky relationship and work together to fight evil. Just the idea of people bonding after being forgotten and told they don’t matter. If that doesn’t make you feel bad for putting old people in retirement homes than I don’t know what will.
Naturally, Mr. Campbell brings the machismo but dials it down just enough to match the now dethroned king. The performances are the real draw in this monster mummy shootout. In fact, the movie would have worked without the mummy, he’s just the icing on this kooky cake. Weird to think that in a movie with an aging Elvis, a black JFK, and a western wear adorned mummy, that the mummy is the least absurd. That’s a wrap!… Please… Kill me.