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Uncle Sam (January 10/99)

Picking up Uncle Sam from my local video store, I was expecting a cheesy, low-budget gore-fest. The packaging contains a 3D photograph on the front depicting Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer, with a tagline that reads: "Uncle Sam wants you...DEAD!"

As I began watching, though, I slowly started to realize that there was a lot more to this movie than shock value. Yes, much of the film has Uncle Sam wandering around in a cheap costume inventively killing innocent bystanders, but surprisingly enough, there is more to it than that. In fact, for about the first 45 minutes, there's virtually no gore at all. Up to that point, it's a somewhat serious look at the effect war has on family members left behind.

See, Uncle Sam is a soldier in the Gulf war that presumably died due to friendly fire, and much of the first half of the film is about his family's reaction to the news that he has (supposedly) passed away. Apparently, he was not such a nice man, so his sister and wife are actually quite happy that he is dead. However, his nephew looks up to him as a hero, so he naturally gets quite upset when folks start bad mouthing his dear old Uncle Sam (yes, his first name actually is Sam).

Anyway, the rotting corpse of Uncle Sam finally shows up and starts murdering people. He mostly just kills people who are foolish enough to disrespect "the American way of life," such as a gang of teenagers who desecrate Sam's grave. His methods of elimination border on the ridiculous at times (one poor sap is impaled by an American flag), but I suppose that is par for the course in a movie like this.

It doesn't hurt that there are a lot of familiar faces peppered throughout the film. Isaac Hayes has a prominent role as a one of Sam's old Army buddies, Timothy Bottoms (Apocalypse Now) plays a peace loving teacher who meets a gruesome end at the hands of not-so-peace loving Uncle Sam, and even Robert Forster (in one of his many low-budget, pre-Jackie Brown roles) has a bit part as a Senator who is killed for no discernable reason.

It's clear that the filmmakers were actually attempting to make a serious point on the nature of war with this movie. But trying to do that within the constraints of the horror genre was a big mistake; it just doesn't work. About the best way to sum up Uncle Sam would be to call it a not-so-successful yet always entertaining experiment.

out of