It's been Election Week here in America, which means awful campaign ads, constant bickering and prognosticating, and - eventually - the re-election of Barack Obama over Mitt Romney as President of the United States. I voted, as we're told American's should, but really only had one contest on our local ballot that I was interested in. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't have a horse in the Presidential race - mostly because I don't trust either candidate one bit - so I ended up voting in that race based on two factors. First, I considered who my mother would vote for, because I trust her. Second, I looked for who had the most whiny and annoying supporters on Twitter and Facebook, so I could vote against them. Is that childish? Sure, it's childish. But so is the Electoral College.
After months of hearing people complain about how ruined this country would be if either candidate won the election, plus the last 48 hours of sophomoric insults being thrown about by poor losers and gloating winners, I decided that I needed to partake in a little post-election catharsis to clean the soul. I needed the kind of clean mind that only a pointless slasher movie can provide - and there's no better slasher movie for this situation than William Lustig's patriotic splatterfest, Uncle Sam.
The film opens with the death of Sam Turner, a US soldier who is killed by "friendly fire" during the Gulf War, and the return of his body to his hometown and his devastated nephew Jody. (What is it with horror movies and dudes named Jody? I have never met a male Jody who wasn't a character in a horror film.) As that small hometown prepares for Fourth of July festivities, Jody begins to realize how "un-American" some of the people in this town are - and the re-animated Uncle Sam takes notice (and a traditional "Uncle Sam" costume) too. Then, the killing.
Lustig, who made a living making sleaze in the '80s (Maniac, Maniac Cop, Vigilante) and now makes a living distributing old sleaze as the founder of the fantastic Blue Underground outfit, shows a little bit of age as a filmmaker this time around. With the script following a teenage child, there's definitely a little more restraint than you'd expect from the man who made some of the most brutal films of the slasher's heyday. Still, there are plenty of humorous kills that provide entertainment for fans of this sort of thing, including a wonderfully gruesome bit involving one of those potato sack races that used to happen before people got cool.
Opinions on this film will probably sway based on the cheesy handling of slasher movie conventions by the director and writer Larry Cohen. Set far from the gritty New York setting of many of these filmmakers' most known works, their transition to a small town in the middle of summer allows for a more comical tone, and the result is little tension and few chills. But I really think there's something endearing about the presentation of this hammy shocker, as over-the-top cameos from genre icons like William Smith, P.J. Soles, and Robert Forster help establish the tone and drown out the annoying fourteen year old lead actor.
I haven't said a lot of good things about the film here, which is a bad way to sell it to you all, but this is one of those weeks when I'm not too worried about deep and meaningful cinema. Uncle Sam kind of represents how watered down horror films were in the 1990s - I mean, if you can't trust the guy behind Maniac to explode someone's head, then who can you trust? - but it's still a good time waster, and a good film to pop in with some friends if you're looking to take the edge off of your post-election drain. If you want to laugh at a killer in patriotic garb, then this is unequivocally the movie for you.
(Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go worry about an undead soldier killing me because I voted with no real knowledge of the candidates. Thanks a lot, Uncle Sam.)
The Mike began his youth by demanding ghost and monster stories, and was soon given three VHS tapes by his parents - The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Lon Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera, and 1958's The Blob.
Since then, he has embraced the wide world of cinema, and has always kept the bizarre, fantastic, and macabre close to his heart.