Bubba Ho-tep

bubba_hotep.jpgLadies and Gen­tle­men, I will now use my film degree for bas­tardized pur­pos­es. Also, I am grow­ing a beard again.

Bub­ba Ho-tep [2002][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:

The King

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.

The Prez

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

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.

The Score

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.