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Uncle Sam (Blu-ray Review)

26 Jun, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 6/29/10
Blue Underground
$29.95 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong horror violence and brief nudity.
Stars Isaac Hayes, Christopher Ogden, Timothy Bottoms, Bo Hopkins, William Smith, P.J. Soles, Robert Forster.

In the vein of holiday-themed horror flicks such as Halloween and Black Christmas comes a slasher flick for the Fourth of July. Made on the cheap in 1997, Uncle Sam evokes the spirit of 1980s horror films with a nod toward small-town Americana.

The plot concerns a soldier named Sam Harper who was killed by friendly fire during operation Desert Storm. His body is found three years later in Kuwait and returned to his hometown of Twin Rivers just prior to the annual Independence Day festival.

Sam’s memory has inspired his young nephew to vow to join the military and “do whatever the president says to do because he knows better.” When rowdy teens desecrate the graves of vets at the local cemetery, Sam rises from the dead and slaughters anyone who disrespects the so-called “American Way.”

With its flashy poster art (depicting a zombie-like title character) and provocative catch-phrase (“I Want You … Dead!”), the film isn’t exactly reverent toward American iconography. Sam’s attacks are rife with ironically patriotic imagery: A cop is impaled with an American flag; a man dressed as Abe Lincoln is shot in the head. What emerges is a disjointed anti-war and anti-jingoist message, though judging by the trailer included on the disc the film was promoted as the killer targeting all that’s wrong with America (as ‘Uncle Sam’ kills draft dodgers, tax cheats and corrupt politicians).

This is actually a smarter movie than its laborious pacing would have you believe, and the end result, despite a few extraneous characters and pointless subplots, is really no worse than industry classics along the lines of Children of the Corn.

The film is more notable for its cast. Isaac Hayes stars as a Korean War vet who would move on to voice Chef on “South Park.” The town has a schoolteacher played by Timothy Bottoms, best known in recent years for playing George W. Bush in two wildly dichotic projects: Comedy Central’s sitcom spoof “That’s My Bush” and the serious TV movie DC 9/11: Time of Crisis. But most welcome in a small role playing a smarmy local congressman is Robert Forster, who appears here not long before his Oscar-nominated turn in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. His uncanny resemblance to Ronald Reagan is surely no coincidence.

This Blu-ray version sports a solid 1080p HD transfer made from the original negatives, which well serves a color palette that is quite bright for a horror movie. The disc also contains a suite of extras carried over from Blue Underground’s 2004 DVD. There are two excellent commentaries and a featurette about filming the pyrotechnic stunt that ends the movie.

Rounding out the extras are a pretty weak excuse for a deleted scene and a funny gag reel that uses double entendres to create a lengthy pedophile joke.

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