As far as Bruce Campbell's resume goes, I think it's safe to say that 'Bubba Ho-Tep' is the quintessential non-'Evil Dead' movie of his fans need to see. It seems to have reached a generous cult following, and 'My Name is Bruce' even references its popularity among the general public. But that review comes later. It's all with good reason, too. It's a great horror-comedy flick from the perspective of a bitter old Elvis impersonator - what more could you want? But there IS more.
Known to the staff of Shady Rest Retirement Home as Sebastian Haff (Bruce Campbell), our hero claims to be the real Elvis Presley. It's explained away that in the 70's, he grew tired of his fame, switched places with Haff, and it was Haff who eventually died while he lived his life impersonating Haff, impersonating himself. It's a little convoluted, but it supplies the viewer with the question of whether he's actually Elvis, or just a guy who is convinced he's Elvis. Anyway, following a bad hip injury, he finds himself stuck at the Retirement Home, contemplating all of the negativity that comes with old age, and essentially he's laying there waiting to embrace the end of things.
Elvis/Haff has a best friend who listens to him, taking him more seriously than others, named Jack (Ossie Davis) who swears to be John F. Kennedy, claiming his black skin color to be a dye job to disguise him after an assassination attempt, and being abandoned by Lyndon Johnson in the home. But while this entire set-up makes for a hilarious one, there's more going on in this home than meets the eye of Ra when Elvis/Haff and Jack/Kennedy find themselves going up against a re-animated Egyptian mummy, stolen from an American museum and lost in a storm. The mummy is dubbed "Bubba Ho-Tep" (Bob Ivy) by Elvis/Haff, wears cowboy duds as opposed to anything traditionally Egyptian, and goes around the home sucking the souls out of easy, bed-ridden prey for sustenance - which can be done through any orifice, by the way.
The novella of the same name by Joe R. Lansdale can be found in an anthology book called 'The King Is Dead: Tales of Elvis Post-Mortem'. It really does make me wonder what kind of differences there might be to the written story, as this is a movie that takes a lot of weird turns, like the idea of sucking someone's soul out through their butt. Lansdale has a few TV/film adaptations under his name, all of them are under the radar, including Season 1, Episode 1 of 'Masters of Horror'; 'Incident On and Off a Mountain Road', a zombie film called 'Christmas with the Dead', a crime film called 'Cold in July', and a 3-season TV series called 'Hap and Leonard'. I figured I'd mention his works just in case a 'Ho-Tep' fan wants to see what else its creator created.
32 prints of the film were made, and it ended up being a touring movie, hitting up various film festivals and gaining a cult following powerful enough that by the time of its DVD release, everyone who was a Bruce Campbell fan seemed to at least know the name. So of all the Campbell titles to put "Under the Radar" this summer, this is probably about the only one that almost doesn't belong. But since Campbell is the undisputed king of cult film, and all things under the radar, of course it made the cut.
Getting back to the actual film, and my overall opinion on it, I frankly love it. The whole concept is one of those things you hear about and suddenly have to see it because it sounds so ridiculous. It's definitely one of the most fun Campbell roles, and Ossie Davis as his sidekick adds a whole layer of comedy to everything. It's a film that's up my alley because it's so oddly original. I mean, it's Elvis vs. a cowboy mummy with a black sidekick who thinks he's JFK. It captures your attention, and then it's surprising to watch and come to terms with the fact that it's actually a good movie that speaks a lot for the elderly community and how they might feel we treat them. Some, with the right tools and attitude aren't as helpless as they may seem. If you haven't seen it yet as a Campbell fan, you need to fix that, because this movie's awesome in all the weirdest ways.