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Shaun vs. Bubba Ho-tep (2002)

bubba1Directed by Don Coscarelli

Starring Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis and and Ella Joyce

An elderly man who may actually be Elvis Presley teams up with a black man who is convinced he’s JFK to take on a soul-sucking mummy intent on making a meal out of those living in their quiet nursing home.



The film starts with an elderly man in a nursing home named Sebastian Haff (Campbell) who suspiciously looks like a seventy-year old Elvis Presley.  A tired and frail shell of what he used to be, all the excitement in his life is gone and he’s withering away in a home complaining about a growth on his penis that will probably do him in.  Though he tells the nurses that he’s really Elvis, they never believe him and remind him that he’s really an Elvis impersonator who broke his hip, wound up in a coma for a while and landed in this home.  A different story is told when Elvis flashbacks to a time when he should’ve been living large but after his marriage fell apart, the drugs were getting too much and he never saw his daughter, he wanted to get out of the limelight and live a simpler life.  Enter Sebastian Haff, the best impersonator Elvis could find and they pull a “Prince and the Pauper” and switch places.  The big problem was Sebastian enjoyed the drugs as much as Elvis did and he was the one that was found dead — the real Elvis lived on until the accident and here he is getting laughed at by anyone who hears his story.

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It’s true dammit, all true!

Life goes on as such until one night Elvis is attacked by a large flying beetle.  Thinking of it being nothing more than a big cockroach, he looks around to investigate further and finds his way into the room of a black man (Davis) who he talks to occasionally who believes himself to be President Kennedy, dyed a different colour and abandoned at the home.  They band together to find out why the residents of this quiet nursing home are dropping like flies.  With all the clues they’re given, they have to agree that somehow there’s a mummy on the loose that steals the souls of the living to keep itself living and has decided to prey on the nursing home residents because they’re weak and won’t fight back.  So it’s up to maybe Elvis and maybe Kennedy to stop the mummy and save the souls of everyone around them.

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How’s that for a “What if?” story?  Elvis is alive, JFK has his own conspiracy theories about his attempted assassination and they have to fight a mummy.  It sounds silly and I know some will dismiss it as such and move on but they’re the ones who are going to miss out on such a great film.  Although the main protagonist is the soul-sucking Hotep, a large part of the film deals with life in the nursing home.  It’s sad, it’s bleak, no one’s in good shape, especially Elvis.  He has no spark for life, watching others pass away around him wondering if his wife and daughter know he’s in the home and if they’d ever come to visit all the while waiting for that growth to finish him off.  It’s not until the beetle attack and subsequent adventure that brings Elvis that little bit of life he was missing and is given a purpose once again.  That’s the major crux of the film and it’s done exceptionally well thanks in large part to the man himself, Bruce Campbell, who truly makes the film what it is and makes us give a damn (yes, I got a little emotional) about what’s going on.

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There can be a few moments of tension but the film is hardly scary, in fact, the funny moments thrown in bring some much needed levity to the drama at hand.  There’s not much blood featured in the film so if you’re expecting another Evil Dead, well, I advise you to just watch Evil Dead.  It’s a little crazy thinking that a movie about Elvis and a black JFK fighting off a soul sucking mummy in a rest home could actually be good, hell, great, and actually be taken seriously but it works well here.  Check it out!

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Prepared to do battle!

TL;DR

Story: 8 – All you need to know is that Elvis is alive, JFK is now an elderly black man and they’re fighting a mummy for their souls.

Blood: 2 – Pretty light on the red stuff but the film doesn’t need it.

Nudity: 2 – There’s a quick flashback scene where you’ll see a quick pair of boobs if you don’t blink.

Overall: 8 – A surprisingly character-driven film that’s light on the scares but still fun to watch.

Trivia

-Reggie Bannister, known from director Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm series, has a brief cameo as the nursing home manager.

-Bruce Campbell wound up having the use the bedpan his character was using in a scene to use the bathroom because all the filming equipment around his bed made it impossible to get to the bathroom.

-The film was meant to have a sequel called “Bubba Nosferatu” about a long lost Elvis movie but Campbell and Coscarelli couldn’t agree on the tone of the film and has yet to be made.

-Though the film was too low budget (around $500,000) to afford any of Presley’s real music, Brian Tyler made a beautiful soundtrack for the film.

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