2 stars (out of 4)
In "Bubba Ho-Tep," an ancient Egyptian mummy feeds on the blue-haired residents of an East Texas rest home. Only an impotent, elderly Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and the (nearly) assassinated John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) can save the day.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during those movie pitch meetings.
Sheer absurdity and creative audacity mate to produce director Don Coscarelli's scatologically obsessed adaptation of Joe R. Landsdale's short story. But Coscarelli, the man behind the long-running "Phantasm" splatter series, can't quite conjure a complete movie out the concept and stretches the material until its humorous conceits repeat ad nauseum.
Campbell, best known as director Sam Raimi's go-to guy for the "Evil Dead" trilogy and TV projects, plays his aged Elvis as part rocker/part bitter Mark Twain, his biggest laughs coming from acid-tongued diatribes.
When the mummy's scarab attacks him, he describes the black, demonic beetle as "the size of a peanut butter and banana sandwich."
Besides terrorizing the nursing home with ancient bugs, the cursed mummy steals souls in a most peculiar manner - by sucking them through the residents' bodily orifices. Guess which one he chooses. Fond of writing bathroom graffiti in hieroglyphics, bandage-boy leaves little to the imagination.
Adding to the oddity, JFK is played by an African-American actor. He says: "They dyed me this color what better way to hide the truth than that?"
Landsdale, a horror craftsman with an ear for poetic hyperbole, writes meaty, pop culture-laced genre fiction, most notably with his God of the Razor character, which he's woven into both Jack the Ripper and Excaliber mythologies.
Perhaps the cutting god might have been a better first choice to bring to the screen, because Coscarelli's treatment of Lansdale's work feels a bit like rudimentary, uninspired genre fare - save for Campbell's and Davis' performances and jaunty, ping-pong profanities. Then again, maybe there's just too little plot to fill 92 minutes.
Plays Friday at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St. Running time: 1:32. MPAA rating: R (language, some sexual content and brief violent images).