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When punk culture was inevitably co-opted and absorbed by the Hot Topic crowd sometime in the 90s, the remnants of the “real shit” retreated back where it belongs- sketchy basements and $1 beer dives. Similarly, with the rise of zoomer-targeted YouTube “comedians” and direct-to-Netflix ADAM SANDLER movies, perhaps now the same could be said about the comedy film in general. Is it officially dead? Or does it now reside in the work of independent filmmakers waiting to be discovered by an audience betrayed by a vapid status quo? The last few years I’ve begrudgingly debated these very questions with myself. But fear not, I bring a message of hope. Writer/director MATTHEW JOHN LAWRENCE’s feature length horror-comedy UNCLE PECKERHEAD assaulted me with an abrupt but consensual optimism. 

On paper, UNCLE PECKERHEAD reads like your fairly standard road comedy complete with  zany characters, hyperbolic displays of travel inconveniences, and the always classic “oh shit, we’re out of money” trope. Underneath the layers of convention (almost required for a film like this) lies something far more interesting and far more unexpected. 

We first meet our spunky lead, Judy (CHET SIEGEL)- the gung-ho bass player of the punk band “DUH”; and her bandmates, Max (JEFF RIDDLE)- a loveable doofus on guitar; and Mel (RUBY McCOLLISTER)- the dark yet snarky drummer. Upon discovering their van has been repossessed before the band’s first tour, the gang happens to run into a pleasant bumpkin that goes by the name “Peckerhead” (DAVID LITTLETON). However, southern charm isn’t the only thing Peck has to offer. He just so happens to live in a van perfectly suited for DUH’s tour. With no other choice, DUH soon recruits Peckerhead as their official driver and roadie. 

After their first gig, the band learns their new companion is hiding a dark secret. There’s no subtle way to say this, so here goes – if Peck doesn’t take his medicine, at the stroke of midnight he transforms into a powdery demon that must feed on the flesh and blood of the living. As expected with a set up like this, rock and roll hijinks ensue as the band gets back on the road forced to grapple between Peck’s heart of gold and his insatiable thirst for blood. 

Granted, the film has its share of  low-brow bits (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the bulk of the humor is dialogue-driven. UNCLE PECKERHEAD pulls this off in spades. Each character is perfectly cast and lovingly hashed out with their own unique timing and quippy delivery. This is arguably UNCLE PECKERHEAD’S strongest quality.  The banter is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, but it can also be subtle. If you look away for a moment, you’ll likely miss some of the film’s funnier moments. 

Thankfully, UNCLE PECKERHEAD is not heartlessly engineered by number-crunching Hollywood types milking a few last laughs from SNL veterans, only to be spork-fed to a thankless general public. It’s not just about a punk rock band; it’s a punk rock movie – independent, loudly original, and genuinely rebellious in that it erects a boney middle finger that screams  “fuck it, I’m gonna make a movie I wanna make”. It’s important to note however – young, loud and snotty isn’t all UNCLE PECKERHEAD has to offer. While seamlessly balancing smart humor, dumb humor, and splatter-gore, it also offers its audience relatable human moments, thanks to it’s cast of quirky yet authentic characters. Few films have pulled this off. 

Films like UNCLE PECKERHEAD help combat my cynical lack of faith in contemporary comedy. The genre actually may not have gone the way of the Wal-Mart Misfits t-shirt. Instead, it’s gone six feet underground. Sometimes you just have to dig. UNCLE PECKERHEAD deserves an enthusiastic spin from a very real audience with a blood-lust for this kind of flick. Regardless of any commercial recognition, the phrase “DUDE! Have you seen Uncle Peckerhead?!” will likely be exclaimed by both hip horror fans and comedy nerds for years to come. If you’re either of these, watch it. UNCLE PECKERHEAD will get a limited theatrical release on August 7 and hits VOD platforms August 11. 

P.S. – Props for spinning COCK SPARRER during those end credits.

“UNCLE PECKERHEAD is a highly original ‘Clash’ of fiending gore and punk rock shenanigans”

4 Tombstones out of 5…

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Bobby Pearson

Bobby Pearson

Before developing a background in broadcasting and film theory, Bobby fell in love with horror in his formative years the first time he saw "Motel Hell". With the help of Joe Bob Briggs and Rhonda Shear, he has since devoted his time to seeking out other film oddities in hopes of scratching the same itch. Though his first love is scholcky 80's slashers and body horror, he has also fostered an affinity for dystopian 70's sci-fi and Universal Monsters. You can catch him on his semi-weekly movie podcast "Not For Everyone" where he and his co-host explore their flawed friendship through the lens of obscure genre films.
His favorite horror movies include: "Sleepaway Camp", "Night of the Creeps" and "In the Mouth of Madness".

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