Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z Is For Z Grade

The Blogging From A to Z Challenge has finally drawn to a close! I gotta say I never expected to survive this month. And I only cheated once or twice! It brings a tear to a weary eye. It's been a really interesting experience and I'm glad to have renewed motivation for blogging. It's something that I really enjoy.

There's something really rewarding about producing an easily visible body of work and watching it grow before your eyes that makes it worth it, even if I'm not being paid for it.


Year: 2003
Director: Don Coscarelli
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce
Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

The final film of the final Theatrical Film Symposium class, an illustrious Monday night screening series that has been in session at Cal State Long Beach for 36 years, the professor of which finally announced his retirement this semester was the 2002 Bruce Campbell stinker Bubba Ho-Tep. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. All I know is that when I'm 105 and sickly, stubbornly clinging to the mortal coil, forget pulling the plug. Just pop in this Z-grade horror comedy and I'll swiftly lose my will to live.

Bubba Ho-Tep is one of those crafty predatory low budget films that lures you in with the sweet scent of an incredible premise before it swiftly dispatches you with a one-two punch of tedium and mediocrity. Somehow, even after the devastating Gingerdead Man incident of 2013, I still haven't learned my lesson.

You see, Bubba Ho-Tep is about Elvis (Bruce Campbell) and JFK (Ossie Davis) in a Texas retirement community fighting a mummy. How could I pass up an opportunity to watch a film like that?

In retrospect, easily.

It's a great idea, but it would have taken half of the film's crackerjack budget to license even a single Elvis song. Needless to say, that didn't happen. So what we're left with in the soundscape is the sweeping romantic score that makes every scene feel like the climax of Gone With the Wind and Elvis' endless and grating monologues as he lies in bed which, surprisingly, is not an inherently cinematic action.

I can forgive the low-budget puppet feel of the scarab beetle attack because that scene has enough goofy charm to outlive its effects, much like some of my favorite 80's horror scenes, but the film overall is so leaden and tedious that even the strongest and most overtly comic bits only elicit a late-night Tumblr laugh (ie. a brief expulsion of air through the nose).

Where I was expecting plenty of elderly hip thrusting and mummy punching, what I got instead was a series of "thematically important" old man boner jokes, a ceaseless cycle of repeating information we already know, and jokes even deader on the ground than the mummy who inexplicably wears a cowboy hat (including one about JFK's Marilyn Monroe that was set up to be hilarious but was deflated by a monumentally mundane punchline).

Even JFK being black was only funny for about .34 seconds.

And one of the most important potential thematic through lines (Are these men who they claim to be? Both of these historical figures have died and one is a different race - he claims to have been dyed by members of the conspiracy. Are they just deluded old men or the actual people?) is flat out ignored in favor of more penis, erection, old man penis, and penis cancer jokes.

I'm not even going to be upset by the misappropriation of Egyptian culture because I'd just be wasting my time. At least they got some of the symbols right although they clearly don't understand their significance.

Two ankhs in the same sentence? Give me a break.

The characters are intermittently mobile and JFK spends the entire finale in a wheelchair despite having been perfectly capable of walking around for the entire first hour of the movie. The plot is boring when it isn't inconsistent and the endless scenes of Elvis sleeping and waking up are only broken up by some admittedly well shot split-second flashes of horror imagery and exposition.

I suppose it's also not worth it to get mad that he gets flashes of exposition for no reason just by looking at certain objects that have been touched by the horror, an affliction all too common in low budget horror films that I'm going to call...  Spontaneous Unconscious Collection of Key-informationitis, or SUCK for short.

Bubba Ho-Tep wants to be a Sam Raimi movie but without Sam Raimi's pulse-pounding creativity at the helm, it is a limp waste of time with only a few scattered mildly amusing scenes.

TL;DR: Bubba Ho-Tep isn't the absolute worst film I've seen, but it's one of the most painful to watch despite a few successful comic scenes.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 810

1 comment:

  1. I own this movie and I can't remember why. I think when I bought it, that was my only way of seeing it (no local rentals had this in). The novelty of it wore off quickly. While I don't think I would rate it as harshly as a 3, it still was dull and very slow-paced for me. I do applaud it for its uniqueness.