Bubba Ho-tep screenshot

Bubba Ho-tep (2002)

four stars

Elvis Presley and JFK defend their East Texas rest home from an Egyptian mummy.


Bubba Ho-tep is a redemption story about a man who feels he's wasted his prime years but is determined to do the right thing with what little life he has left. That man is Elvis Presley. The real Elvis Presley. And his final stand is against an Egyptian mummy who's been sucking the souls out of residents' assholes in an East Texas rest home.

To escape the pressures of fame, Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) switched places with Elvis impersonator Sebastian Haff (also Campbell). Haff died with the world believing he was Elvis. The real King is still alive, but spends his time counting his regrets and thinking about the cancerous growth on his penis. His will to live is rejuvenated when JFK (Ossie Davis), another resident, discovers that a mummy has been devouring the souls of rest home occupants, and the two men decide to defend their home from the ancient threat.

Bubba Ho-tep screenshot

The story is told from the main character's point of view, providing a simple example of (possibly) an unreliable narrator. The character claims to be Elvis Presley, and we see flashback footage that proves it, but we're still just taking his word for it. The same story from Kennedy's point of view would likely have flashbacks showing his transformation, whether he's telling the truth or not. Maybe he is. Maybe they both are.

As if a rest home full of forgotten celebrities (in their minds, at least) isn't strange enough to begin with, there's also a mummy lurking around the place at night. Turns out he stays alive by consuming "small souls," such as those of the elderly. But not only is the mummy evil, he's also a dick. While he can inhale the souls from any orifice on the victim, he consistently chooses their assholes. Even worse, he craps the souls back out while writing hieroglyphic graffiti on the shithouse walls.

In the end, the outrageous elements that Bubba Ho-tep is known for are just details. Whether he's truly Elvis or not, the main character's story is heartbreaking and all too realistic. He's tucked away and forgotten, dying of cancer, and thinking of all the things he'd do differently with another chance. When he decides to take on the mummy, he's making up for all those regrets. He feels like he wasted most of his life, but he's smart enough not to waste what's left.