15 Days of Horror – Bubba Ho-Tep

The b-movie people who hate b-movies love. A trashy horror movie with a philosophical axe to grind. And it’s got Bruce Campbell to boot.

Bruce Campbell is Sebastian Haff, Elvis impersonator in an old folks’ home. Unless he really is Elvis, like he thinks he is. He’s largely bed-bound, left alone with his reflections of past glories and introspection on age and life. His lone friend is Jack, an elderly black gent in a wheelchair who claims he is JFK (dyed black after the assassination attempt, then left to rot). These two must face off against an ancient Egyptian mummy who walks the halls of the retirement villa, slaying old people.

It’s a surprisingly deep movie, all things considered, though its humor is derived from the ludicrousness of the situation. Is this really Elvis? That pill is easier to take than accepting the old black dude is really JFK, but most of all, this is a movie with a mummy that regenerates by sucking the souls of old people out of their assholes. Not something to take seriously, despite its serious introspection from Elvis/not-Elvis on the topics of age and life. This is a complex film, with some great scenes, and an unforgettable performance on behalf of Bruce Campbell.

Why is it scary?

Well… it isn’t? The horror parts are something of a derail to the meditation on old age (and/or sanity), and are somewhat predictable. But that’s part of the fun: in a way, it’s a b-movie parodying b-movies. A lot of the humor comes from the protagonists, yes, but also in the weirdness of the situation: an ancient mummy? Which sucks souls out of somebody’s ass? In an old folks’ home? And these are the only two people who stop it are

Though, it is worth noting that there’s some viable terror here: it’s pitched as a drama in many circles because the horror parallels, and in many cases augments, the film’s philosophical messages: the helplessness and isolation of old age. Horror often uses isolation and helplessness to its advantages; here, the characters start off weak and old to boot. People don’t believe that they’re really Elvis and JFK to begin with, so it’s up to them to prove that they’re not just old and worthless.

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