Uncle Sam (1996)
Directed by William Lustig (Maniac, Maniac Cop franchise) and written by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive franchise, God Told Me To), this odd slasher/zombie film arrived on July 4th, 1997, to the video market.
Lustig and Cohen were the Director/Writer team that brought you Maniac Cop and this film seems to be a rehash of those films in a slightly new skin, this time it’s a wronged (friendly fire), dead soldier from Desert Storm seeking revenge in a small town on Independence Day.
The plot revolves around the previously mentioned soldier, Sam Harper (David Fralick), who was killed in a friendly fire incident during Desert Storm and is being returned to his hometown for burial. Sam’s nephew, Jody Baker (Christopher Ogden), views his uncle as a hero and role model and is obsessed with the military and war. He shares his late uncle’s opinion that anyone who is unpatriotic is basically a coward/traitor, and that includes his draft dodging math teacher, corrupt politicians, and more.
In a rather shaky explanation, Sam rises from the dead to take vengeance on the very type of “unpatriotic/un-American” scoundrels mentioned above, all while wearing a creepy Uncle Sam costume.
First up is the town’s Uncle Sam on stilts performer who uses his stilts to spy in girl’s bedrooms. Next, he takes care of a group of kids who desecrate graves with swastika’s and burn flags, followed by others who he feels have spit on his country.
At first blush, you’d think that this was some “right-wing” fantasy horror film until you realize that killer is as bad, or worse, then his victims. Sam Harper’s widow Anne Harper (Ann Tremko), and his sister Sally Baker (Leslie Neal) lived in fear of Sam while he was alive. He was a drunk and a violent abuser of both women. Similarly, while many of his victims such as the grave desecrators, a corrupt politician, and a few others, definitely deserved Sam’s wrath, others were a little less easy to justify. Jody’s math teacher did flee the country during Vietnam; however, he talks about how hard such a decision was for so many. Then there was the BBQ girl whose crime appears to have been to sneak off to smoke a joint during the celebration. Finally, the local policeman had to go because he was dating Sam’s widow. You quickly figure out that this film’s motivations got lost somewhere and unlike a Jason, or Freddy, Uncle Sam never seemed to be a monster to root for.
The film itself is a bit of a slog. It has a 91-minute runtime and takes at least half of that time to set-up Jody’s hero worship of Sam and the town getting ready for the big 4th of July Festival. The kills when shown were just ok, with the exception of a fun decapitation during a sack race, the congressman’s end in the fireworks celebration, most of them took place off screen. The final confrontation with Sam by Jody and a real local war hero was fun and you could tell the budget went into this one scene and explained why most of the other gags lacked a bit.
Overall, I give this a 2.5/5, not a bad film, but definitely not a hidden gem.