A geriatric Elvis Presley, a black man convinced that he’s John F. Kennedy, and a mummified pharaoh wearing a cowboy hat. Are there any three more natural co-stars? “Bubba Ho-Tep” began as a novella, part of the anthology project “The King is Dead” (per Ain’t it Cool News). It’s the story of how Presley (Bruce Campbell), tired of his hollow existence as an idol, switched places with an Elvis impersonator to regain a measure of anonymity. Age and accidents land him in a nursing home where his only friend, Jack (Ossie Davis), believes he is President Kennedy, his skin dyed by Lyndon B. Johnson. The two of them are the only ones who know that a mummy is consuming the souls of their fellow residents and unite to take the undead down.
Everything about “Bubba Ho-Tep,” from its premise to the casting of Campbell as Presley, suggests a cheesy cult movie, and the film isn’t afraid to put its tongue firmly in cheek. But its makers took pains to avoid formula. “Love it or hate it,” writer Joe R. Landsdale told AICN, “you won’t come out sayin’ there are two just like it.” A key way it defies expectations, according to Empire, is its embrace of black humor rather than broad laughs. Campbell’s Presley is a regretful, introspective man in his twilight. The film treats its elderly subjects with dignity, per IGN, and it’s a character study just as much as it’s a horror comedy.