As any horror fan knows, there is no shortage of holiday-themed horror films out there. However, while holidays like Halloween and Christmas boast a multitude of titles, less represented holidays like say, 4th of July have far fewer movies modeled after them. That being said, it’s hard to imagine a movie ever being made that could more enthusiastically embrace the patriotic American holiday than Uncle Sam.
The plot centers around Master Sergeant Sam Harper (David ‘Shark’ Fralick), a helicopter gunner who is killed by friendly fire during the Gulf War. When his body is shipped back to the states for burial his young nephew Jody (Christopher Ogden) becomes obsessed with him and following in his footsteps. But it isn’t long before Harper’s restless corpse awakens, steals an Uncle Sam outfit and goes on a bloody rampage against draft-dodgers, flag burners, corrupt politicians and anyone else who dares defile the honor of his beloved country. Will Jody have the courage to defend the town and stand up to his….(sigh) uncle, Sam?
While the idea of a murderous reanimated corpse in an Uncle Sam costume is indeed strange, what’s even more bizarre is that this weird throw-away film from the 90’s wasn’t directed by a first timer nobody, it was directed by fucking William Lustig! In fact, despite consistently working as a producer up till present day, Uncle Sam actually represents the final feature film the director of the seminal slasher Maniac has directed to date.
When you go into a movie like Uncle Sam you have a good idea what to expect. Clearly you’re not going to get brilliance but if the film can keep you entertained with a cheesy story and plenty of gruesome kills then it’s done it’s job. Unfortunately, this is where the film ultimately fails as it commits the only truly unforgivable sin of the cheesy slasher sub-genre…..it bores the audience. Aside from the opening scene there aren’t any kills until forty-two minutes in!
Evidently, a lot of padding was needed to stretch out the paper-thin story and even though the second half does pick up a bit, it’s too little too late. Some of the kills are creative and decently bloody but without the kind of glorious, gooey over-the-top madness we saw in 80’s films or the sleek, realistic gore of modern day horror this is a classic example of why the 90’s were considered an overall low point in the history of the Horror genre.
There are some things I did appreciate about this film, though. Primarily how it so fully embraced the underrepresented holiday with such gleeful abandon making this a film that doesn’t just take place on the 4th of July but is, without a doubt, a 4th of July themed horror movie, and all holidays should have at least one horror film that fully represents them. I also have to give props to the credit sequence which not only establishes the iconic Uncle Sam outfit for the viewer through real archival footage but also shows how genuinely bizarre and creepy it could be at times.
If this doesn’t sound like enough to recommend the film, it’s because it’s not. The movie is not even remotely scary which is largely due to the fact that the titular villain spends most of the time standing in plain view so there is never even a chance of tension or dread building before a kill. Even with the cheesy concept and low budget this film could have succeeded if it had jumped right into the action and assaulted the viewer with a series of brutal kills that didn’t let up. At least then it would have made for a fun movie to watch with a few friends and more than a few drinks. As it is, watching this is about as exciting as celebrating the holiday with a damp sparkler and a non-alcoholic beer.