Christmas. A time for setting aside differences and bonding. Sometimes just to enjoy a meal, sometimes to battle a centuries-old demonic entity. Day 18…
With one of the most hell-for-leather insane concepts in recent memory, if not in all of cinematic history, 2002’s Bubba Ho-Tep showed there was more to Phantasm director Don Coscarelli than flying balls and dwarfs from another dimension. It just took Bruce Campbell to prove it.
Campbell portrays an elderly Elvis Presley – in a performance which arguably (heresy!) supersedes his own iconic Ash from The Evil Dead series – as he lives out his final days forgotten at a retirement home after growing bored of fame and switching with an impersonator. After a series of mysterious deaths Elvis is approached by Jack (Ossie Davis), a fellow retirement home resident and very much adamant he is JFK (he’s black). Jack informs Elvis that an ancient Egyptian mummy is responsible for the deaths, sucking the spirits from those who cannot outrun it and vandalising the toilet cubicles (“Cleopatra does the nasty?”).
Elvis: “No offense, Jack, but President Kennedy was a white man.”
Jack: “They dyed me this colour! That’s how clever they are!”
Based on the novella by Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-Tep is possibly the lightest film on our anti-advent calendar, but deserves its place for its ace execution, wrenching a surprising depth of pathos from its otherwise hilarious and absurd concept as it contemplates aging and the fading of glory in between demented scarab beetles and jokes about penis growths.