Bubba Hotep

Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley

Bubba Hotep is a fantastic low-budget horror comedy starring Bruce Campbell. Set in a retirement home where people are mysteriously dying two of the incumbents must battle a 3000 year old Egyptian mummy in order to save their souls.

The main character is Sebastian Haff and he's wasting away in a bed with a "boil on his pecker" and no one to visit him. Haff claims to be Elvis Presley, saying that he swapped identities with an impersonator when the fame got too much for him and then had no way of proving his real identity. He spent years impersonating himself until he took a fall off a stage and broke his hip. He ended up in the home and now walks with a zimmer frame and is understandably not the happiest of guys.

No-one questions people dying in an old folks home but Elvis sees some strange things and teams up with another of the residents, a wheelchair bound black guy who believes he is John F Kennedy. JFK has a theory about what is going on and the two begin to investigate. They uncover evidence that a 3000 year-old mummy is sucking the souls from the old folk in the home. They resolve to combat this evil but in their weakened states this is no mean feat.

Elvis and JFK go to war

This is a surreal film which combines a number of funny ideas and characters. The script is sharp and the direction is good, both provided by Don Coscarelli. Coscarelli likes his horror, having done the Phantasm films in the past but this is by far his best work in my humble opinion. Most of the comedy is absurd and emanates largely from the lovably bizarre characters. Whereas the tension in the film comes from the vulnerable state of Elvis and JFK as they struggle to beat this soul sucking monster.

Indeed the characters are what make this film. The two heroes are infinitely more interesting than the lurking evil and this is largely down to tremendous acting performances from Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as JFK. Campbell does a brilliant impression of Elvis as he may have been had he have lived into old age. His character is a broken husk at the start of the film but this new mission seems to restore his vigour and sass. The performance is both funny and poignant and in terms of acting this could be Campbell's greatest work. Ossie Davis is also really good as the less believable JFK, he claims after he was shot they put a bag of sand in his head and dyed him black, he gives a measured performance and takes the organising role in this odd partnership.

The film is low budget with minimal sets, a small cast and cheap effects but that shouldn't put you off. The two main actors lend a great deal of credibility and the script veers away from out and out goofiness with some touching moments and a condemnation of people's willingness to put their parents away in a home and forget about them. The pacing isn't perfect, the film drags at times and the big evil seems secondary to events and a great deal less interesting than the two main characters but despite these flaws Bubba Hotep is a hugely enjoyable film and worth seeing for Campbell's Elvis alone.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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