Sometimes a tag-line is enough to get me to want to see a movie. With JACK FROST, it was, “He’s chillin’…and killin’!” I didn’t think much could outdo that clever slogan, but UNCLE SAM came close with the tag-line, “I want you…dead!” UNCLE SAM proves that the formula of taking beloved figures and turning them into murderous freaks is still a viable source for good, shlock horror. I’ve seen movies about Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman and now Uncle Sam. Here’s an idea: how about a horror series with famous biblical characters: MOSES: “Here are my ten commandments…thou shall die!” Anyone with me? Oh well, let’s see how UNCLE SAM did.
UNCLE SAM is the story of an American Soldier who dies in the first Iraq War (remember that one?). Yet, when his corpse returns to his sleepy California hometown, the term Gulf War Syndrome takes on a whole new meaning. Now an undead zombie, Sam can exact revenge on, well, just about everyone. Sam’s into the whole “killing randomly” thing, which is fine with me. Humorously, Sam's blitzkrieg of violence goes largely unnoticed by the townspeople who are consumed by the excitement of their annual 4th of July celebration (must be some great fireworks!). Donning a latex mask and the familiar stars-and-stripes uniform of America's great recruiter with the first name “uncle,” Sam blends into the hoopla of sights and sounds.
Enter Sam's nephew, Jody. The child has unshakable faith in his fallen role model, Sam, until he learns the dark secret of his abusive past (yes, they actually went to the trouble of creating a back-story). It is then that Jody becomes a crusader to put an end to Sam's bloody reign of terror.
Some people don't hold children to the same standards of quality acting as their adult counterparts. I'm not one of those people. Jody befriends another child, a blind psychic, who is confined to a wheelchair and whose face is sloppily covered with unconvincing scar tissue make-up. After watching the blind cripple in his ill-fitting sunglasses put on perhaps the worst display of B movie acting since the TOXIC AVENGER series, you wonder whether the world would have been better off if this character had perished in the event that caused these injuries. To top it off, the boy speaks in cryptic "I may be blind, but can see more than most people" rhetoric, as he helps Jody hunt down Sam into an anti-climactic showdown.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The beauty of this film is that it doesn't try to be something that it is not – that is, a good movie. As a finely woven tapestry of B movie violence, Sam manages to gauge, rip, shoot, and dismember his way to low-budget horror mediocrity (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Especially memorable scenes include the decapitation of a sack-race contestant, the impaling of a police officer with a flagpole which impressively included the flag itself and the death of a public official by sparkler fire-crackers.
The best part of this film is the performance turned in by Isaac Hayes as Jody’s older friend Jed. With a dynamic range of emotion and on-screen presence, the former Shaft superstar (and the voice of Chef in South Park) proves again why he is the best man to play the role of hero when better actors are unavailable. When Sam loses his mask to reveal what the makeup artist probably wanted to look like a face damaged by Iraqi chemical weapons, he is confronted by Hayes in a typical showdown between good and evil. Guess who wins. Well, no matter what happens on screen, Hayes wins because he got a rent-check out of this movie.
When all is said and done, UNCLE SAM is an entertainingly shlocky exercise in straight-to-video horror. I would give it three stars if I didn’t have to deal with the child actors, but the killings alone definitely merit this movie a look.
Rating: ** 1/2 (out of a possible 4)
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