God bless AmericAAAAHHHH!
Happy Fourth of July my fellow Americans. Today we declare our love of burgers, hot dogs, terrible beer, explosions, and that terrible John Mellencamp song “R.O.C.K. In The USA”. Oh, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That too. Apologies to my UK readers (and there are a lot of you). This must be a tough time for you. In keeping with the tradition of holidays being used as the basis for horror movies, I was able to dig up one that takes place on the 4th of July. Nothing says “America” like a B-movie involving a killer zombie soldier dressed like Uncle Sam!
Uncle Sam is a 1997 horror movie starring David Fralick (Soultaker, The Young And The Restless) as Sam Harper. Sam is killed in action by friendly fire during the gulf war, but comes back to life and kills two American soldiers inspecting his body. Back home, his nephew Jody Baker (Christopher Ogden) idolizes his uncle, taking his war medals into show and tell and expressing his interest in joining the military when he is old enough. Sam's wife Louise received word that Sam's body has been discovered and is being returned home. At the wake, Jody meets and bonds with Jed Crowley (Issac Hayes, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, South Park), a former soldier that was friends with Sam. On the 4th of July, Sam awakens and rises out of his coffin. He kills a peeping tom dressed as Uncle Sam and puts on his costume. At the 4th of July parade, Jody talks with Barry, a boy his age that was blinded and scarred by a fireworks accident the previous year. Sam talks to Barry and feels a kinship with him because of his accident. Sam violently kills various people throughout the parade some committing unpatriotic acts like purposely singing the national anthem poorly, and some just because. Barry tells Jody that the killer Uncle Sam is actually Jody's Uncle Sam. Will Jody, Barry, and Jed be able to stop this killer zombie Uncle Sam or will the 4th of July go out with a bang?
Stand up for the flag, jerk!
While I'm still waiting for a horror movie about Arbor Day or Daylight Savings Time, it's fun to see the 4th of July get it's due. There is no question that Uncle Sam is a B-horror movie, much in the vein of Jack Frost, though far less silly. The story is pretty basic with an angry, mega patriot soldier coming back from the dead and going on a killing spree. It's the details where things get mucked up. So Sam died and came back as some sort of zombie. Okay, I can accept that, but I can't accept that no reason was given for his resurrection. Unless I totally missed something, I don't think they even attempted to give a reason. No voodoo curse, no toxic gas used during the Gulf War, not even being attacked by a radioactive Iraqi soldier. Also, what is the point of making him a zombie if you're going to cover him up with an Uncle Sam costume? The zombie makeup actually looked good, so it's not like they couldn't pull it off. They might as well have had him just be a crazy soldier going on a killing spree. I guess they were trying to go for something deeper with the whole “coffin draped in the flag” deal, but it never came off as moving or touching. The inclusion of Barry comes out of nowhere in the last 35 minutes or so and is pretty unnecessary. They even give him “magical psychic powers,” giving him some sort of connection to Sam. Why do that? It adds nothing to the movie and the “supernatural handicapped character” is unfortunate and annoying.
Where it lacks in making sense, Uncle Sam makes up for it with over-the-top violence. Raising someone by their neck on a flag pole and exploding a Congressman with fireworks were ridiculous, but fun to watch. There is a passable amount of blood and a little gore, but probably not enough. The acting is good enough all around with Issac Hayes putting in a legitimately good performance. Some of the lines he says throughout should be used as samples for metal bands. The movie has spurts of good camera shots and creative direction, but it doesn't last throughout the entire movie. Why only do it a few times? You have the skill and ability, why not make it work for the full hour and a half? Uncle Sam gets really heavy-handed in it's political condemnation of both conservatives and liberals. It sends mixed messages and comes off preachy at times without a real sense of political knowledge.
Kid, you've got problems
Uncle Sam is a silly, but fun B movie. There are some good acts of violence as well as good performances from most of the cast. The story glosses over some basic things and could have been put together more cohesively. Why have a zombie if you're just going to cover him up and not have him act like a zombie? Uncle Sam has it's moments and was better than expected. That doesn't mean it was necessarily good, but it wasn't bad. That's the American way!