Ladies and Gentlemen, I will now use my film degree for bastardized purposes. Also, I am growing a beard again.
Bubba Ho-tep [official site] is very much more than a horcom about Elvis and JFK in a rest home fighting a soul stealing mummy. Upon a closer inspection the tale becomes an allegory of 20th century Western politics. Let me explicate:
Elvis Presley [Bruce Campbel] is a grouchy, impotent good ole boy with a pus-filled growth on his pecker and a mountain of regret for throwing away his love for Priscilla and his daughter due to his drug habits and the destructive nature of superstardom. Whether this is truly the King is ambiguous, he might be Sebastian Haff, an Elvis impersonator. Elvis and the full force of the Elvis myth are, in this film, America. This is quite smart because Elvis was the first cultural icon of the juvenile post-war United States superpower. His myth fits point for point with emergent American political identity. Elvis is fully as big as America in terms of mythology.
The twists that Don Coscarelli gives this Elvis are most welcome. The possible/probable senility/identity issues of Elvis/Sebastian coupled with his impotent and diseased penis [which equals the bloated/crumbling military/industrial complex] fully engorge the cumulative social guilt and stubborn resistance to the same guilt that has been the lot of America’s foreign policy for the last 50 years.
If Elvis is the emotional mirror to the USA, then JFK [Ossie Davis] encapsulates the rationalizing idealism that has resulted in the condition of Elvis/America. That is, JFK [who was dyed into a black man and has a bag of sand in place of his brain] arouses the King’s failing drive in much the same way that our Presidents have coaxed out the few remaining spurts of virility time and time again in American military conflict. Obviously, in Bubba Ho-tep JFK is quite mad. Once again Don Coscarelli twists the weight of myth so that a madman is the rational force.
The mummy, exhumed in Egypt, stolen in Texas and lost in a creek, must eat the small souls of the residents of Shady Rest in order to remain undead. It eats the small souls by ass-sucking. [it can use any orifice but seems to prefer the bunghole] The mummy quite easily represents any and every perceived threat to America; from such specifics as Hitler and the civil rights movement, to such generalities as homophobia, xenophobia, communism and terrorism. Of course it must be destroyed. Destroyed by the cleansing fire of the righteous King and steadfast President.
This movie could only be made in post 9/11 America. The pervading sense of withering, decay and hope lost directly stem from 9/11. While this is obviously a liberal film [for a case could easily be made that The King and JFK are allegorical critique only to the George W. Bush administration] it is a respectful one. While these aging myth-figures manage to save the day from the threat of Bubba Ho-tep, their death always seems inevitable. Coscarelli recognizes that, while such behavior was easily come by in the past, it is time for new ways of dealing with Other/Not America. Even, it seems, that it is time to find new ways of dealing with America as America itself. We are urged to recognize what has molded the country, but not to be bound to it in senility. It is too late for The King and for Jack Kennedy, it may be too late for us, but we’ve still gotta take care of business.
[other things i liked]
cockroaches are huge in Texas, it is funny then that the scarabs are just thought to be cockroaches ‘about the size of a peanut butter and banana sandwich.’
the one hot chick in the movie bends over and give Elvis a glimpse of her ‘love-nest.’ Elvis remarks to himself that he appears so old and undesirable that to her it is ‘no worse than a housecat sneaking a peek.’
Bruce Campbell is Elvis and Ossie Davis is JFK. Pure. casting. genius.
despite being called ‘low-budget’ the production values were surprisingly high and the camp was kept strictly to the premise. the editing was fiercely good.