Bubba Ho-Tep (USA, 2002)
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Starring Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Bob Ivy
Through presenting The Movie Hour for so long, I've come across many cult films which are really heavily flawed but which somehow still hold up, either by having something to say, or by being so strange that they become endearing. Into this little family which includes The Bed-Sitting Room and The Magic Christian, we can now add Bubba Ho-Tep, a strange shrunken oddity which somehow wins us over even when all its flaws are in plain sight.
Gone with the Wind in US TV ratings. But even Russell, in his finest performance outside of The Thing, cannot hold a candle to Bruce Campbell, who is simply astounding in the role. Not only does Campbell look like Elvis, but he replicates his mannerisms perfectly, taking everything that Elvis did in the years up to his death and imagining how they would have become exaggerated in old age. It's perhaps Campbell's finest performance outside of the Evil Dead series, and like Raimi's films he provides the charisma needed to prevent the whole thing from collapsing.
Rob Gonsalves remarked that "after all these years... [he] still doesn't know how to make cookie-cutter genre films. Let's hope he never learns how." For all the originality that he brings, Coscarelli doesn't really understand how to pace a horror film, giving us a number of eerie or creepy shots but too many long, slow sections in between. The monster itself is a triumph of idea over execution, with Bubba Ho-Tep ending up as creaky and silly as anything that Roger Corman could come up with.
Verdict: An endearing cult oddity