Elvis (Campbell) isn't dead. He swapped places with an impersonator in secret, and is now lying decrepit in a Texas rest home. But when an Egyptian mummy is revived on the premises, The King teams up with a black resident who thinks he's JFK (Davis) to kick some bandaged butt.
With that storyline, that director (the guiding light behind the Phantasm franchise) and, most pertinently, that leading man - Evil Dead vet Campbell is perhaps the most popular actor you've never heard of - you'd be forgiven for thinking that Bubba Ho-Tep had been grown in some special cult-movie Petri dish.
If ever a flick was set up to be an instant underground classic, filled with ker-azy gags and stunts, it's this one. Yet, surprisingly, Bubba Ho-Tep never takes the easy road. The action is low-key and the laughs of the black, rather than broad, kind. This is a tale principally concerned with death, and as such is cloaked in a funereal gloom, moving at a snail's pace.
When we meet our hero, The King is cantankerous and clapped-out, obsessed with a growth on his penis. The encounter with the mummy gives him a shot at being a contender once more. It would have been easy to pitch his performance into caricature, but like the movie itself Campbell defies expectations, getting not only the voice and mannerisms down pat, but infusing Elvis with self-loathing, regret and an unexpected dignity. Diehards might be disappointed at the lack of chainsaw wielding, but this is Campbell's finest hour since you-know-what.
Not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but there's enough here to entertain even those for whom "cult" is a four-letter word.