Uncle Sam is a 1996 horror film directed by William Lustig, the director responsible for the Maniac Cop series…so there is some pedigree with dealing with the ‘undead’ here. Sadly it fails to deliver and falls into novelty very quickly.
There is always a weird contingent of American film that tries to reclaim some mythical idea of a conservative America for its viewers and reassure them that the progressive policies and practices like gay marriage and black people having the right to vote are just setbacks on the way to maintaining America’s place as the greatest country in the world. By taking a closer look at the success of films like Lone Survivor and American Sniper, it is actually not that surprising that there are people who feel exiled by more traditional Hollywood fare.
Uncle Sam works as a critique of these kinds of films in a way, as the movie’s main villain, the titular Sam, is a dead army sergeant who comes back to life on the Fourth of July and kills people who seemingly disrespect America, like a group of teenagers who burn an American flag, a teacher who opposed the Vietnam war, and a corrupt congressman, all while dressed as Uncle Sam.
Sam is eventually revealed to have been a terrible human being in real life. This critique of making the people who would revel in the kind of patriotic carnage that Sam engages in, side with a man who physically and sexually abused his family is biting in theory, but in practice is just limp as it is hidden inside a terrible movie.
The makeup department has Sam looking like a Freddy Krueger knockoff, which is clearly where the majority of the budget went, because the rest of the movie looks sickly, shot in a dreary grey pallet against incredibly sparse and uninteresting sets. It also is hard to even classify Sam as a zombie, because he acts more like the antagonist in a goofy slasher movie and less like a flesh-eating monstrosity. But hey, he’s technically undead, so here we are.
It is hard to wallow through disjointed performances and staid direction that offers little pleasure, even in the mild carnage that Sam creates. And the weak satire only makes the affair more frustrating by simply angering the viewer that they are watching incredibly wasted potential.
So much could be done with the central conceit of Uncle Sam, but the lack of a strong vision, budget, or even enough care to want see the idea to the end creates something tedious out of something potentially acidic and important.
Probably the most interesting (and best executed) thing about this film was the lenticular poster that was developed that showed a traditional ‘J.M. Flagg’ stylized Uncle Sam, that morphs into the zombified and undead Uncle Sam of the film as you walked past it. You can see images of the Uncle Sam lenticular poster below.
Watch the trailer for ‘Uncle Sam’:
|Buy the film at Amazon.com|
|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|
Watch the full movie of Uncle Sam via some YouTube emdedded videos here.
Written by: JJ Perkins