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UNCLE SAM – Review

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY AMERICA!

Initially, I wanted to give you a list of my favorite 4th of July horror films.  With the help of a dear friend (thanks Dave!), we came up with a few titles that have ties to Independence Day (with the exception of the film INDEPENDENCE DAY) and Americana themed films.

But there is one that has always stuck with me. The William Lustig (MANIAC, MANIAC COP) directed UNCLE SAM. I decided to take a trip down memory lane and gave the film a second spin. Its always a gamble when you put on a film you haven’t seen in a while and saw when you were much younger but you know what? It still stands! I think I actually enjoyed it MORE now that I am older and have a deeper understanding of the actions of the military and government.

*WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD*

Sargent Sam Harper (David “Shark” Fralick) is killed by “friendly fire” while fighting in Kuwait.  Weeks later, Sam’s body is returned to the home of his sister Sally (Leslie Neale) as she and the rest of Twin Rivers, prepare for 4th of July festivities. Sally’s son Jody (Christopher Ogden) is incredibly proud of his Uncle Sam’s service in the war, and oddly comfortable having his body resting in his home.

In the early hours of July the 4th, Sam’s body rises from the dead and is hellbent on seeking revenge by killing  anyone displaying unpatriotic activities.  He kills three teenage flag-burners in a cemetery, he kills a boy who purposely botched the national anthem by hanging him by a rope on a flagpole and raising it. He also kills Jody’s teacher because he was quite vocal of his opposition to the Vietnam war. I loved the way that the American viewpoint of war and those who fight it is the fuel that ignites Uncle Sam’s fire.

While having a serial killer knocking off people in their small town is a bummer to the residents of Twin Rivers, it seems that they will stop at nothing to celebrate America and its independence.

Jody has always aspired to be just like his Uncle Sam. He sees him through rose colored glasses as a fearless “hero”.  That image is broken down when his mother and aunt reveal that Sam was a drunk who sexually and physically abused both of them and only joined the army just so he could kill people without suffering the consequences. Charming.

While the town flip flops between celebration and terror, Jody’s friend Barry, who seems to have some unexplained telepathy with Sam, reveals to Jody that the killer is Uncle Sam.  There is an old saying that war turns boys into men, but for Jody, learning the truth about war and it’s heroes is what changes him from an impressionable young boy, to a man ready to take charge and restore order.  Jody wants to be the hero of the war being waged on his town.

With the help of the extremely underutilized Isaac Hayes playing Sam’s old mentor Jed, the boys go back to the home in the hopes of getting there before Sam can get Louise.

You would think it would be easy to kill someone who already died once, right? Nope. Killing Sam for the second time is proving to be a daunting task for the guys. They tried shooting him but it did nothing so plan B is to kill him with Jed’s cannon.  It works! Uncle Sam is on fire, as is Louise’s house. It was a nice house too! Just another causality of war I guess. The final casualties of war in the film are Jody’s beloved toy soldiers. The toy soldiers actually play a pivotal role in the film as they are used in many ways to make statements about war, soldiers and the value we put on them.

The film makes no attempts to mask its political leanings, yet it doesn’t feel like it’s being force-fed.  The film is surprisingly thought provoking on the topics of war, corruption, soldiers and the ever evolving practices of the American military. It keeps the politics palatable by peppering in some humor and some great kills!

While the film follows many of the slasher tropes that we all know and love, it is unique in its story-line which makes it stand out from the others in the genre. It also is undeniably Lustig in its camera work which as a big fan, I absolutely love.

William Lustig is best known for the horror classic MANIAC but UNCLE SAM should really have its day in the sun as well.  It’s a film that not many have seen, but what better way to celebrate America than with an all American horror.

“UNCLE SAM is a great horror take and gets our seal of approval!”

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Amy

Amy

Amy Seidman is a Toronto based writer for Thrillist, Rue-Morgue, Shock Till You Drop and FANGORIA magazine. She has a tattoo tribute to Castor Troy from Face/Off. She is proud of all her life decisions.

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