Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 5

5. Bubba Ho-Tep

This is the sleeper of the list. Brandon Collins and I drove all the way to Nickleodeon Cinemas in Falmouth from Orleans in the middle of a horrific blizzard in the winter of 2004 to see it. It took us about an hour in the swirling snowflakes, and when we got there, the movie hadn't made it over the bridge. The distributor was scared by the snow. Viking warriors that we are, we waited out the storm in the Quarterdeck in Hyannis, then drove about 15 mph all the way back to Exit 12. It was a good night, after all, but I wish we had seen this movie like we planned. I bought the DVD as soon as it came out in the summer of 2004, for some reason I wasn't that taken with it. (It may have had something to do with the fact that I spent most of my time blaring heavy metal and jumping into bushes for fun back then. Damn, that was a long time ago now. It was fun. What I can recall of it.) This DVD went to Santa Cruz, back to Cape Cod, back to Santa Cruz, down to Louisville, KY, back to the Cape, up to Somerville, MA, back to the Cape and finally wound up in Roslindale, MA with my girlfriend, me and our hedgehog, Huey. About 3 weeks ago, scouring my shelves for something to watch (I have an enormous DVD collection but am too broke to afford cable, a weird predicament that I have a feeling isn't too rare these days.) I stumbled across this movie, popped 'er in. I was immediately in love.

This film is based on a short story by the brilliant Texas author Joe R. Lansdale. I call him brilliant but I've never even read any of his books. The writing in this film, however, which is apparently incredibly faithful to Lansdale's story, is absolutely brilliant. Cult legend Bruce Campbell plays Elvis Presley, who is now a sickly old man in an East Texas rest home, bedridden and depressed. Everyone thinks he's insane, that he's an Elvis impersonator who has dementia and thinks he is really the King. Elvis, it turns out, actually traded places with an Elvis impersonator, also played by Bruce Campbell, in the 70s. He was never into the fame. He just like rock and roll and ladies. He hated all his leech-friends, so he was happy to live a semi-obscure life as an impersonator of himself. But, all this backstory is told by Elvis himself, so it could very well all be made up. Now, this on its own is a brilliant premise, but this is just the beginning.

One of Elvis' neighbors is JFK. JFK is played by Ozzie Davis. Yep, JFK is an old black guy. They took JFK's brain and switched it with a black man's before the assassination. So JFK's room is full of pictures of Jackie O, a diorama of the scene of his assassination, and all sorts of odds and ends relating to JFK. And it still gets better.

An ancient mummy is in the rest home, eating the souls of the old people, because they are weak and easy to prey on. Elvis and JFK team up to battle the mummy and protect their home. The dialog, and Elvis' monologue is SO good, its some of the best writing ever in a movie. Seriously, the dialog is perfect. Its genius. From the opening scene: Elvis lays in bed and looks in the mirror. Bruce Campbell VO: "How did I go from the King of Rock and Roll to this? An old guy in a rest home in East Texas with a growth on his pecker. And what is that growth? Nobody's talkin." And the direction, by the legendary Don Coscarelli, is perfect as well. So, you have an amazing premise on top of an amazing premise on top of an amazing premise paired with genius writing and excellent effects and direction. This film is hilarious, fun, creepy, depressing and uplifting, usually all at the same time. Its just about a perfect movie and like no other movie you will ever see.

UPDATE: Made a hot link to Don Coscarelli's imdb.com page and discovered that they are making a sequel called "Bubba Nosferatu"!!! Its written by Lansdale and Coscarelli!!! See "Ho-Tep" now so you can be as excited about this as me!

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