Bubba's Chili Parlor Movie Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Bubba, you got any guns? – Peter
Hell, man, this is Texas...Even my grandmother's got a gun. – Bubba
Written and Directed by Joey Evans
2007, 84 minutes, Not rated
S. Mike Davis as Bubba
Audrey Elizabeth Evans as Ashley
Camille Rocha as Janet
Ramie Mercado as Rodriguez
Bradley Maroney as Peter
Adrienne Gibson as Jamie
Tristan Vaughan as Wes
Somewhere out on the back roads of rural Texas sits a greasy dive called Bubba's Chili Parlor. With a sign above the toilet out front, the dive advertises you can get your chili either for here (in the restaurant), or to go (in the bowl). Bubba's is a joint that caters to the locals and, on some occasions, adventuring tourists who want something off the beaten path or just a taste of the local scene.
That's the idea Janet had, anyway, when she convinced her boyfriend, Wes, to make a side stop at Bubba's for some of the local delicacy. Unfortunately for Wes and Janet, they picked the worst time to try something different. Ol' Bubba has been making his latest batches of chili with some questionable meat he bought on the cheap. Meat that was part of some super secret government testing — genetically juiced and whatnot. And we certainly know what happens when government tainted meat is eaten: Madness, death or zombiefication. In Bubba's case, a whole army of the living dead was born, and he and his ragtag band of survivors have to get the hell out of dodge intact.
Bubba's Chili Parlor attempts to take you back to the good old drive-in days, and right from the beginning it works — starting with the presentation itself. The picture is a mess of grain, over exposure, cigarette burns, the occasional time when the film jumps and, in at least two instances, the picture craps out altogether and picks up a short time later in the movie. Couple that with an intro and two intermissions that are all drive-in — right down to the paper thin gray meat advertisements that drive-ins passed for a "hamburger" — and you are on your way to a '70s movie experience. If Bubba's failed at everything else, it could take solace in the fact it nailed the drive-in memories. Fortunately for Bubba's, and us, there was more than just window dressing.
Writer/director Joey Evans does an exemplary job not just making the most of what he has, but also using what he has wisely. By rule of thumb, Evans putting his daughter, Audrey Elizabeth, in one of the main supporting roles as Ashley — super zombie extraordinaire — seems like a bad idea. But the script was obviously written to her strengths, and she pulls through just fine. Hell, she even brings S. Mike Davis' performance up a notch when the two are on screen together. As Bubba, Ashley's surrogate father while her mom is off whoring around or just all around ignoring her, Davis' real life affection for the girl really comes across onscreen. The two's scenes are some of the best in movie. Until little Ashley goes on her eating spree, at least.
And yet while hot as hell Camille Rocha nails the high maintenance and bitchy Janet perfectly, she is flat when any other emotion is required, almost to the point where she seems bored in every other scene. Fortunately, Evans uses her only when needed, and doesn't put too much emphasis on her character (where it easily could have been). On the flipside, the equally attractive Adrienne Gibson plays the town bicycle with ease, and even though she disgusts you by completely ignoring her daughter, Ashley, you still have love for her by the way she offers up Janet's man a quickie in the trailer in the back of Bubba's. An offer that Wes eagerly takes up, and pays for. Because when the magic starts happening in the double wide, the juiced up meat starts kicking in.
For the gore hounds, there's plenty of the good stuff sprayed around. Flesh is ripped from the neck, a zombie crawls around with half of her legs hanging by tendons, arms are shot off, legs are shot off and much, much more. There's even some zombie sex. You don't see that every day.
But Bubba's Chili Parlor wins where many low-budget movies fail: great character development. I actually cared about Bubba's quest, and rooted for him from beginning to end. Bubba's even has some comedy thrown in the mix. Some subtle (like the sign above the door that separates Bubba and Janet from certain zombie death) and some not so subtle (like the aforementioned toilet humor). But it's my kind of comedy, never obnoxious and always smart.
The movie isn't perfect. It has two endings (think Lord of the Rings), and the 'second' ending is questionable (to the point it should be cut altogether), which of course I can't get into without spoiling anything. There are also a couple of scenes that are just a hair overlong (that, sadly, would be just fine if the actors carrying those scenes were a hair better). But these are easily forgivable because Bubba's Chili Parlor is a fun trip down memory lane. The film would have been right at home opening for a triple bill with Dawn of the Dead and Evil Dead II. It might not be as polished as the two, but it's got the comedy, characters and, most importantly, personality, to make it worthy addition to a genre fan's collection.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.