For this, the 240th anniversary of our country’s birth, there will be the traditional barbecues, family get-togethers, and fireworks. For folks like you and me, Fellow Fans, we have our traditional horror flicks that correspond to this festive time like most others. Films like Jaws and The Bay take place over the Fourth of July weekend, and some movies like The Washingtonians or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter use patriotic, historical American themes that certainly fit into any horror fans Independence Day celebrations.
One particular film I typically pop in at some point during this holiday weekend is the 1996 offering from William Lustig that I’m throwing out for today’s review — Uncle Sam.
Young Jody idolizes his uncle, Sam, who went missing during the Gulf War. Although he was very young when he last saw him, his uncle’s tales of the military, combat, and patriotism made quite an impact on the little boy, and as such, his interests turn to G.I. Joe, war comics, and the desire to grow up and be a hero like his brethren. Of course, Jody doesn’t know what his mother Sally and aunt Louise know, that Sam was actually an abusive, alcoholic asshole, who twisted his “patriotic” beliefs into an excuse to be a bully, and hate anything that he didn’t agree with as “un-American”.
It’s coming up on the Fourth of July, and Louise is shocked when a sergeant arrives at her home to tell her that her missing husband has been found, but sadly, he died as a result of “friendly fire”. This somehow fills Louise with conflict, as she doesn’t really regret his passing, but still feels fear — which is shared by her sister-in-law when she’s informed. Nonetheless, they agree to keep up appearances and have the funeral, and the body is brought to Sally and Jody’s home. Their fears, however, are not unfounded, as for some reason, Sam rises from his coffin and systematically sets about taking his life back, but first he intends to stamp out what he feels as unpatriotic in the little town….in gruesome fashion. Procuring an “Uncle Sam” costume from a victim, he begins a bloody rampage against draft-dodgers, tax lawyers, pot-smokers, and corrupt politicians in what seems to be an unstoppable assault…only Jody, his illusion shattered, and an aging veteran who knew Sam before stand in his way…
Lustig provides a social satire while at the same time providing an entertaining film. A lot of it is tongue-in-cheek, but it never devolves into slapstick or stupidity, although the sheer outrageousness of some of the gags teeters on the brink of cliché. Reminding much more of his Maniac Cop films than say, Maniac , this movie is more about making a statement in a darkly humorous fashion that scaring the hell out of you. You wind up really not caring about the people that Sam hacks, shoots, and blows the hell up, because they kinda sorta deserve it…you kinda root for him, at times. Still, before it’s over, like most real-life anti-heroes he shows his true colors (see what I did there?), and it’s known that he has to be stopped. The climax is foreshadowed like crazy, but still oddly satisfying. The acting ranges from good to adequate, and really, for this kind of film, it all completely works. Good to see Issac Hayes and Robert Forster, even if Forster’s role really is only a brief caricature of bad politicians. Finally, I’ll say that the special effects are, for the most part, very enjoyable — but true-blue gorehounds will be left feeling a bit hungry when all is said and done.
This one isn’t going to win any awards, and it’s not going to have you looking over your shoulder at night for “Sam” to be creeping up on you….but it is entertaining, and a pretty good addition to any Independence Day watchlist for horror fans.
Happy Fourth of July!
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