For a film so set on camp, and only camp, Coscarelli dials the campy atmosphere down to about a four most of the time. He even manages to paint his character who thinks he’s Elvis as a rather dignified person. The entire concept of “Bubba Ho-Tep” is rather original. There’s a soul sucking monster at an old folks home, and to discreetly suck life, and not be noticed, it’s taking the remaining life from the residents there, and no one is drawing much of a stir. But Elvis and the black JFK decide it’s about time to stop this monster before they’re next in the war path of the undead mummy. “Bubba Ho-Tep” is a lot less a horror film, and much more of a film about the horrors of getting old.
Elvis and JFK feel much younger when they find a sense of importance in the world, and decide to save the old folks home they live in only to give the people there a chance at living their life without worrying about the grasp of this monster. Coscarelli’s film is strictly a bare bones low budget effort, but it’s saved because of the worthy aspects like a sweet story, a very creepy monster, and Bruce Campbell. Coscarelli, in his meshing of monsters, and senile old men, attempts to honestly convey a story about a place filled with lost souls being tormented by a creature that drifts in and out for a short meal. Bruce Campbell proves he’s a wholly underrated actor by taking on a character of three dimensions.
On one platform he’s a man who thinks he’s Elvis, and even has a logical story to back it up, on the second he’s a man who is being rejected from society and has no way out, and on the third he’s an old man who has discovered his strength and will to live thanks to this creature. Campbell gives a top notch performance, especially in a film void of truly great special effects, hell the fight with the bug wouldn’t have been pulled off were it not for Campbell’s ability to make his character a sympathetic hero and not simple comedic relief. In the small supporting cast, the late great Ozzie Davis is oddly hilarious as a man who swears he’s JFK, except dyed to be black.
The two have a palpable chemistry discovering where this monster came from, and how they, two feeble old men, can stop Bubba, a powerful monster. Coscarelli actually doesn’t take his film for granted, taking part in true characterization, but he also never takes it too seriously. The film is a perfect balance of comedy and drama. Watching Bubba creep around the home is rather creepy, and the effects from the boys at KNB are well done, but Bubba himself is a fun character. He’s creepy enough to warrant a credible movie monster, but supplied with cowboy boots and hat, he’s twisted enough to remain memorable. Coscarelli’s horror dramedy is a wonderful balance of sweet characterization, well done performances, great special effects and an original story that’s both bittersweet and creepy. “Bubba Ho-Tep” is an original horror movie worthy of your attention; original horror movies are hard to come by these days.