After your July 4 re-watch of Independence Day, your subsequent transfer ought to be to stream 1996’s different patriotically themed launch: Uncle Sam, a film so up-front about its intentions as a satirical horror comedy that its poster, a ghoulish parody of a military-recruiting advert, has the tag line “I Need You… Lifeless.”
Uncle Sam may be low-budget, however it comes with some horror bona fides. It’s directed by William Lustig (Maniac and the Maniac Cop movies) and written by the late, nice Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, The Stuff, God Informed Me To, Q: The Winged Serpent); its solid is a mix of unknowns enjoying the primary characters and recognizable B-movie stars (P.J. Soles of Carrie and Halloween; a pre-Jackie Brown Robert Forster; “that man” character actors Timothy Bottoms, William Smith, and Bo Hopkins) breezing by way of for a scene or two. The actual MVP, nevertheless, is Isaac Hayes, who grounds the film with a efficiency that’s each surprisingly solemn and in the end heroic.
Talking of heroes, that’s one thought Uncle Sam is taken with exploring, although its predominant thrust is (naturally) piling up a creatively ugly physique rely utilizing as many Americana-themed weapons as attainable—flag pole, barbecue implements, fireworks, George Washington’s cherry-tree axe. Because the film begins we see the aftermath of a helicopter crash in Kuwait, attributable to pleasant hearth and ensuing within the horribly burned physique of Sergeant Sam Harper (David Fralick). He ought to be useless however—fueled by fury over that “pleasant hearth” factor, plus he’s a man who’s totally rage-powered beneath any circumstances—supernaturally springs to life and kills all of the troopers investigating the accident. In the meantime, in a small Anytown, USA type of place referred to as Twin Rivers, we meet a child named Jody (Christopher Ogden) being raised by his mother, Sally (Leslie Neale), with assist from Sally’s sister, Louise (Anne Tremko)—Louise is Sam’s spouse and Sally is Sam’s sister, which makes Sam “Uncle Sam” to Jody.
Jody is obsessive about the navy and idolizes his uncle; he’s the one one who’s sorry when information arrives about Sam’s obvious loss of life. Sally, Louise, and Sam’s former mentor, Sergeant Jed Crowley (Hayes), are all relieved that Sam, who was by all accounts a merciless, violent asshole, is out of their lives. After all, we know he’s nonetheless lurking round, and you’ll’t assist however squirm when Jody begins attempting to pry open Sam’s flag-bedecked coffin whereas it’s being saved in Sally’s front room. Really, that will be a creepy factor for a child to do beneath any circumstances, however the man was a monster in life and loss of life—don’t let him out!
Uncle Sam takes its candy time attending to the second we’ve all been ready for, however ultimately Sam’s desiccated corpse rises up and units about murdering a) anybody we’ve seen being unpatriotic within the film (flag-burning teenagers, Jody’s instructor who implies he was a draft dodger, Sally’s tax-cheating lawyer boyfriend, a sleazy navy liason, a crooked politician), which is decidedly on theme, and b) mainly anybody who will get in his approach, which can be on theme however negates any concept that Sam is pushed by some sick sense of justice. His household is the implied final goal, and Jody ultimately realizes the man he’s been idolizing is definitely a harmful fiend—although it takes a number of rounds of individuals telling him as a lot, together with Jed.
Uncle Sam just isn’t with out flaws—other than its less-than-glossy technical points, the child who performs Jody has to do a number of emotional heavy lifting, and his performing chops aren’t fairly as much as the duty—however it’s stuffed with sufficient bizarre, quirky touches that you could simply forgive its shortcomings. For each corny second (Uncle Sam mutters “I hope you bought an eyeful!” whereas poking out a sufferer’s peepers), there’s an impressed selection; we all know Sam goes to disguise himself in an Uncle Sam costume, full with low cost masks and wig, however we additionally get a layer of element that he steals the costume off a man who’s sporting it whereas strolling round on parade-ready stilts, utilizing his elevated top to be a more practical Peeping Tom. Later, Uncle Sam introduces a good friend of Jody’s who was burned and blinded by a fireworks accident on a earlier July 4—and who, for causes that go totally unexplained, has a psychic hyperlink to the killer. And the film’s closing second is so ambiguous and unusual it offers you one final thing to chuckle at because the credit roll.
We clearly gained’t spoil each weird element that makes Uncle Sam an more and more pleasant viewing expertise (as talked about, the opening half-hour or so are a little bit of a slog), however each astute moviegoer is aware of this rule: if you happen to introduce a cannon in act one, you’ll be able to guess your sparklers it’ll are available very useful in the course of the huge struggle on the finish.
Uncle Sam is streaming on Prime Video.
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