Bubba Ho-Tep: In Praise of Great B Movies

by Derrick Story

I sometimes walk out of the movie theater wondering how producers could spend 70 million dollars on the film I just watched. I'm sure the writer had a good idea in the beginning. But then the Hollywood machine goes about pulverizing the beautifully textured adult entree into the bland baby food I see on the screen, and all of the spirit gets crushed along the way. This doesn't always happen. But more often than it should.

There's been a lot of noise in my corner of the digital media world about independent music. In part, this has come about because technology has provided musicians with affordable tools to create and distribute their work. The RIAA behaving like petulant bullies has provided some motivation too.

I think it's interesting that if music is produced independently, it's called indie music. But all too often, if a film is produced the same way, it's labeled as a "B Movie," implying that it isn't as good as an "A Movie" that you'd pay $10 for at the local cineplex. But what "B" really stands for is "budget." These folks often have a great idea, but they don't have 70 million dollars to spend on it. (Of course there are many bad B movies too, which proves that being poor doesn't necessarily make you smart.)

Enter stage left Bruce Campbell, Don Coscarelli, Ossie Davis, and Brian Tyler... and on stage right, Bob Ivy as the mummy. Bubba Ho-Tep is a film about an aging Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) who wakes up in a Texas nursing home to discover that a lost Egyptian mummy has returned to life (adorning snake-skin boots and a cowboy hat) to suck the energy out of helpless rest home residents. Elvis teams up with JFK (Ozzie Davis who is black, and he'll have to explain how that happened) to fight the mummy and save the rest home. It's a movie about heros being heros, redemption, old age, and the monsters that stalk us.

Bruce Campbell, already a B movie cult hero for films such as Army of Darkness, plays a brilliant Elvis. There are many scenes where it's just Elvis with his thoughts and the haunting chords from Brian Tyler's soundtrack that somehow made me think about my own life. How could that happen in a B movie?

Bubba Ho-Tep was made for a fraction off the cost of most of the films I watch. Yet I marvel at its creativity, heart, and tenacity. I've always appreciated independent productions.

At our recent Mac OS X Conference, I invited Sean Fitzroy and Vikki Merriman to speak about their winning entry in the 2003 Boston 48 Hour Film Project competition. I'm looking forward to attending the DV Film Festival next month in LA. And I never miss the Digital Storytelling Festival every June in Sedona, AZ.

As I've thought about all of this, it finally hit me. I don't want to be the next Steven Spielberg. I'd rather be a director more like Don Coscarelli.

Buy or rent Bubba Ho-Tep, and you'll see why.


2004-11-27 22:47:35
Don't forget Production Design
The director always gets the credit. Don't forget the tireless work of the set crew, and especially Daniel Vecchione. Evidently, this movie was filmed in a creepy abandoned hotel that was haunted, read all about it.
2005-02-04 09:23:52
RIP Ossie Davis
2005-06-05 07:10:10
Don't forget Production Design
that was more than awesome,
ken neu