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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Uncle Sam

Another week, another goofy-ass slasher flick. This week, we have one of those "holiday" slashers to watch, a 4th of July-themed film called Uncle Sam. Let's get to it....and, as always, there will be SPOILERS up the wazoo! I hope you all remembered to clean out your wazoos before the film...

Okay, so the movie starts out with 2 schlubs riding around in a jeep. A couple of helpful subtitles inform us that they're in Kuwait, and it's June 14th. They pull up to a wreckage in the road, and it's revealed that an American chopper crashed. The ranking officer tells one of his men to check the body in the helicopter for his dog tags, and the soldier reads that the dead man is named Sam Harper. Gee, I wonder if Sam's an uncle...

Before he can do much else, the poor grunt is shot by Sam, who sits up and fires away. Then he also turns the officer into Swiss cheese. Before the scene ends, Sam tells the corpses, "Don't be's only friendly fire!" And then we get the opening credits, set to fireworks, patriotic music, and images of Uncle Sam(not the killer...the character on the recruitment posters).

When the story starts up again, we're told that it's now taking place in "Twin Rivers, USA". Boy, my US maps must be waaaaaay out of date, because, I don't see a state with that name anywhere on 'em! I hope Sam has a good GPS device. Wait, maybe I should be hoping that he doesn't have one? I'm confused...

We see a little kid in bed, and he's having a nightmare. Nightmares must be expensive,because his looks like it primarily consists of public domain war imagery, mixed together with a photo of a soldier saluting. The kid knocks the picture over as he sleeps, and the glass in the frame breaks, waking him up.

The boy cuts his foot on the glass fragments, and hops on over to his mother's room. As she gets some items to treat the cut, he tells her that he was dreaming about his Uncle Sam, marching in the Independence Day parade. His mother tries to tell him that he's much too young to remember her brother, but the kid insists that he does. Okay kid, whatever.

Okay, so let's stop here for a sec....Uncle Sam--the undead soldier we just watched kill some of his comrades in the opening sequence--is just hanging around somewhere? Is he buried? Walking around? Running around as a politician named John Kerry for his cover identity?(come on, you KNOW that guy's a zombie!)

Anyway, the next scene has a police officer dropping his date off at her house, She is Sam's widow, and it's been 3 years since anyone has apparently heard any news about him. A member of the military has been waiting on her front porch to let her know that Sam's body was finally recovered. Hey, I have an idea! Let's start saying character names out loud, how about that? We're 3 scenes in, and I can only name 1 character thus far. And his name is in the title.

Anyway, the army rep tells Sam's widow that they can bury him at Arlington, but she's adamant about having him in the family plot, near her. He gives her Sam's dog tags, tells her the motel he's staying in(the anonymous soldier, not Sam), then he leaves.

Then we finally meet someone who has a name:Jed, a former Sergeant. He's played by the late Isaac Hayes. Chef! Jed's trying to button up his uniform, but years of junk food have made that nigh impossible. He seems to have a flashback, and picks up an old photograph. This movie must have been funded by a camera company....everyone has an old photo near and dear to them.

The picture looks like a group of guys standing around a Chain Chomp(from the Mario games), and Jed remarks that he's the last of the folks from his army unit still alive. Don't you worry, Jed...I have a feeling you'll be having a reunion with your buddies sooner than you'd think. Do the Mario!

We then get treated to the most awkward scene transition in recent memory, as we go from a shell-shocked war veteran, to that little kid from a few scenes ago, reading a war-themed comic book that he created. The kid's mom calls him Jody, and they apparently live together with Sam's widow. Great, so now we know 4 names. At this rate everyone should be identified by, oh, I'd say the 3rd sequel. Uncle Sam: Electric Boogaloo!

Whoops, gotta get back to the film! Oh, and I cheated by pausing the film to look up who that actor was playing the soldier who was talking to Sam's widow....Bo Hopkins. He's been a steadily-working actor in television and movies for a loooong time. Genre fans probably recognize him as the sheriff in the second From Dusk Til Dawn movie.

Anyway, sorry, got sidetracked again, didn't I? So the whole point of Jody making his own war comic book was that he sees Sam as a heroic figure, but I get the impression that the adults in the family have a different opinion. Sam's widow tells her sister that his body was found, and is being shipped home.

At this point the Netflix DVD keeps skipping and stuttering. Luckily(...?), the movie is also available to watch streaming. So, now the widow has a name: Louise. Boy, now we're cooking! As Louise and her sister discuss how abusive Sam was, and how stressful making arrangements for his body will be, Jody is seen eavesdropping by the stairs. He goes back to his bedroom before heading off to school, and grabs a heavy-looking green metal box.

At school, Jody tells his teacher, Mr. Crandall, that his uncle's body was found. He also reveals that there was a rumor that the chopper was shot down by American soldiers. As the teacher explains the concept of "friendly fire" to the class, Jody brings out the green box, which holds all of Sam's combat medals.

Mr. Crandall reveals that he was a protester during Vietnam. Jody calls him a coward, but clarifies that his uncle was the one who told him that. As he returns to his desk, Jody vows to join the army himself someday. Heh, instead of "Son of Sam", we get "Nephew of Sam"! I crack myself up, I really do.

There's a very brief sequence showing Sam's coffin arriving, then Jody gets home from school. Jody sees that the coffin is sealed, and asks if he can put the medals in with his uncle's body. Sgt. Twining(I cheated again...) tells Jody that he should keep the medals himself, until he's old enough to enlist. Wow, nice thing to say in front of the widow: "Hey kid, we killed your uncle. You're next!"

As Louise shows Sgt. Twining out, Jody tries fiddling with the seal on the coffin. Louise sees him, and tells him to stop, then fixes the flag over the coffin again after he leaves the room. Inside the coffin, we get a good view of Sam's rotting hands, but nothing happens. Not even a twitch. Damn.

Twining gets on the phone with one of his co-workers, and implies that the whole reason he took the job of delivering bad news to war widows is because he wants to bang 'em. Classy guy. He giggles and hangs up, drunk and goofy.

At the house, Jody's mother greets the deputy at the front door. He offers to take her out, but apparently it's just her and Jody in the house, and she doesn't want to leave him alone with the body. Given how he tried to break open the casket, can't say that I blame her. Jody's got some screws loose, if you ask me. And where is Louise? And why is the deputy having dinner with his girlfriend's sister instead of his girlfriend? This movie hurts my brain. I can't keep track of half the names, who's dating's like a bad soap opera.

Deputy Dork bores them with dinner chat about how the sheriff's department finagled a ton of money from the government. What a douchebag this guy is. After he explains to Jody how he cheated the IRS out of money, he asks Jody if he wants to ride up on the July 4th parade float with him. The deputy's going to be dressed as Honest Abe...excuse me, I think I just threw up in kmy mouth a little over the slimy nature of this guy. I hope Uncle Sam kills him first.

Jody asks to be excused, and the deputy(named Ralph) tries to cozy up to Jody's mother. So wait, is he dating both women, or was the aunt dating a different member of the sheriff's office? And who the hell writes this many subplots into a damned slasher flick? Seriously. A slasher flick shouldn't require Cliffs Notes to watch it.

Up in his room, Jody is playing with his army men. He names one action figure "Ralph", then runs it over with a tank. Wait, are they trying for a Child's Play vibe here, where we're supposed to wonder if the killer is either Jody or Sam? I swear, if that's the twist, I'm going to be majorly pissed.

In the middle of the night, Jody sneaks downstairs with the box of medals under one arm. As he attempts to break the lock on the coffin, Sam's hands begin twitching. Jody says something about how lonely death must be, then gives up on the lock and goes back to bed.

The next day, Jed shows up to pay his respects. He sees Jody staring at him, and brings him out to the porch to see the artificial leg Jed wears as the result of a war injury. Then Jed does what anyone would do around a child: he tells Jody that his dick is still intact, then fills his head with amputee horror stories. Funny, that never came up with Chef on South Park....

When Jody expresses an interest in joining the military, Jed starts to bad-mouth nthe military life. Jody doesn't believe him, but the old guy at least tries to dissuade him from wanting to enlist. Then he tells Jody that he took Sam hunting as a young boy once, and Sam seemed to derive pleasure from killing. Yikes! Keep Jed away from kids!

Jed tells Jody that only dangerous lunatics look forward to battle, then he goes back home. When Jody goes back into the house, he overhears Ralph saying that the war in the Middle East was stupid, and Jody lashes out at him with an insult. That gets Jody grounded, even from the holiday festivities. D'oh!

Jody reads the last letter Sam ever wrote to him, then goes to bed. As the clock strikes midnight, we see Sam in his coffin. Despite zooming in on his rotting face, nothing happens. Maybe that should have been the title for this one: Nothing Happens....The Movie! They could call the sequel Still Nothing!

A group of teens show up at the graveyaed, defiling the headstones with swastikas. They douse an American flag in lighter fluid, then light it up. This somehow wakes Sam from the dead, despite the fact that he's in a different part of town. Logic? Who needs logic? This film sure doesn't.

Sam gets the lid open, and sits up. He creeps upstairs to Jody's room, and takes back his various medals, then we get a gruesome montage(MONTAGE!) of Sam pinning the medals to his bare chest, before buttoning up his uniform once more. Ouch. Then he visits his wife's bedroom, and nothing happens. You're as shocked as I am right? Yeah.

Sam decides to do a little peeping before his killing spree, and he somehow found an Uncle Sam costume and mask to wear. Then what the hell was the point of wearing his uniform over his medals??? How many layers does a zombie need to wear on an average July night? He's not exactly going to die from catching a cold....

Oh well. The good news is that the blond he's spying on is pretty damned hot. She completely disrobes, and it's revealed that the guy outside is a different Uncle Sam. He's one of those guys who wear the costume while on stilts, which is a cliche I've never really understood. Is it traditional to get your neck broken on Independence Day?

The woman puts her clothes back on, then leans out the window to yell at the perv. He's busy, in the meantime, making the slowest, most awkward escape ever filmed. A police vehicle nearly hits him, yet he still gets away. This is like the most useless police force in the history of law enforcement. Next to these guys, Boss Hogg's deputies seemed like rocket scientists.

Uncle Sam(ours this time!) shows up, and begins stalking the stilt guy. We see the killer take out a sharp pair of shears, and the one on the stilts starts to panic. He looks over his shoulder to see if the zombie is still following him, and gets a direct hit to the face by a thick tree branch in his path.

He hits the ground, and Sam takes his mask. After killing the guy, Sam cuts the pants of the Sam costume to a normal length, then puts it on. Okay, same criticism as before: is he wearing the costume over his uniform? Seriously, wouldn't the mask be a sufficient disguise?

Whatever, let's go check in on the vandals. They use Sam's open grave to get rid of their empty beer cans, then 2 of the guys start to leave. The 3rd guy stops first to pee over the gravesite. Again, very classy.

Uncle Sam pops up from out of nowhere, and sprays the peeing guy's face with one of the paints the hooligans used earlier to deface the graves. The guy passes out, and wakes up with a red, white and blue face. He snapped one of his legs falling into Sam's open grave, and the bone is sticking out of his pants, looking pretty gory.

Uncle Sam watches the young man try to pull himself out of the grave, leg injury and all, but it's too deep. He waits for the guy to notice him standing over the hole, then starts to shovel in dirt to bury the vandal alive. Nasty way to die.

The guy's 2 friends discuss going back for him, but only one does. Nice friends. A brief shot of the buried-alive victim shows his fingers poking up through the dirst, waving weakly, but Uncle Sam covers them with the last of the dirt. He sure seems to be breathing heavy, for a guy who doesn't need to breathe anymore. Why would a zombie get winded?

The doofus who went back for "Rick"(the vandal's name) keeps calling his name, and wandering through the graveyard. Uncle Sam gets a cord around the guy's throat, and begins to hoist him up a flagpole. As the struggling guy is raised higher and higher, "Taps" begins to play. Near the top, his neck snaps.

The following morning, Mr. Crandall, Jody's teacher, is setting up for some kind of patriotic pageant or something. He goes back to his classroom to fetch a part of one child's costume, and we can see Uncle Sam hiding in the room with an axe in his hand.

Outside the school, Ralph asks where the teacher went, and is told that Crandall went back inside to get an axe. Then we see the axe buried in Crandall's forehead. Ow! On the bright side, he'll never lose track of it!

Jed fires a cannon, and a group of folks dressed as soldiers march by a small crowd of spectators. Jody can hear all of the festivities from his bedroom, and decides to sneak out to enjoy the holiday. As he looks under his bed for the box of medals, he realizes that it's now missing. He thinks one of the adults did it, and gets pissed. My money is still on him as some sort of killer. The kid is creepy...

Speaking of creepy kids, there's a brief scene depicting a couple bringing their blind child to the parade. The kid, wheelchair-bound, has disfiguring scars on his face, and it's implied that his injuries were caused by something that some of the townspeople did in the past. Really? Really movie? We need yet another plot thread in this overstuffed turkey? What, are you trying to remake The Towering Inferno or something??? And what's a blind kid going to enjoy at a fireworks show and parade? "Gee, the smoke smells good this year!"

Anyway, the injured kid, Barry, was a kid who was friends with Jody, so Jody walks over to talk with him. Barry doesn't acknowledge him at all, at least at first. When he finally does speak to Jody, Barry's mother breaks up the reunion, and pushes her son's chair away from Jody. Apparently, Barry had some kind of accident with fireworks, and his mother blames all of his friends for the accident, whether they were there or not.

The mayor tells the crowd that a local teen will sing them the national anthem, and we get a quick glimpse of Uncle Sam killing someone for some reason. Then the teen gets on stage, and starts doing a thrash metal version of the anthem, screaming the lyrics like a castrated bull. He finishes by mooning the audience, and Uncle Sam is watching from a distance. I think he found his next victim. Either that, or he's an ass man.

The mayor tries to salvage the proceedings by leading the audience in a real version of the song, and there's an extreme closeup of Barry for some reason. Uncle Sam suddenly cradles the blind boy's face with one hand, and Barry is understandably freaked out. Uncle Sam then tells Barry that he will punish the crowd for him. Barry asks who he is, and Uncle Sam responds that Barry knows the answer to the question already. Freaky stuff.

Jody, who was busy getting something to eat, turns around and spots Uncle Sam speaking with Barry. Uncle Sam moves through the crowd, waving and interacting with children, and Jody keeps watching him. Then Barry's parents bring him a plate of food, and he asks them who the man was. The folks don't seem overly concerned. Dumbasses.

A black car shows up, carrying a politician and his bodyguards. Jed makes a comment about the politician, and Abe Lincoln(Ralph) tells him that not everyone who marches in the parade can be a war hero. Then Jed complains about the kid who screamed the national anthem, and Ralph replies that it's a dumb song that no one ever remembers.

Jed gets angry and limps away, straight into the path of Uncle Sam. their eyes meet(Sam's are glowing yellow), and Jed gets a serious case of the willies. Sam stares him down, then walks away.

At a barbecue grill, a young woman uses a meat cleaver to cut a rack of ribs into sections. She puts down the cleaver to go take a smoke break, and lights up a joint. another deputy surprises her, and confiscates the drugs. When she returns to the grill, the cleaver has gone missing. Big surprise, huh?

Did Uncle Sam become a pacifist? Where are all of the killings? Believe it or not, we have to sit through a freaking potato sack race next. Swear on a stack of bibles, a potato sack race! One teenager cheats by running behind other contestants, then tackling them to the ground, Jody included. Is a sack race actually that important to the youth of today?

The stupid teen eventually stumbles down a hill, into what looks like the local junkyard. He hops past a few rusty vehicles, and a couple is seen making out in one of them. Then the kid finds himself facing Uncle Sam. Finally!

the kid compliments the costume, then hops away. Past the next set of trees, he sees Uncle Sam reappear in front of him. Neat trick. The teen gets scared, and hops away a bit faster, this time into the waiting arms of the killer. Sam grabs the boy with one hand, then raises the cleaver with his free hand. With one swift chop, he decapitates the kid. He was sacked!

Back at the festivities, Ralph and Louise are talking about their relationship. *yawn* Ralph offers to buy her an ice cream cone, and Sam is seen lingering behind them. Ralph even guesses that Louise is uncomfortable dating him because of all of the recent news about Sam's body being discovered. To cap off the scene, Louise gets a popsicle instead of ice cream. Ice cream, popsicle, same crap movies and classic films. Same diff, right? Or aspirin and rat poison. Or chickens and humpback whales.

Uncle Sam tries his hand at a shooting gallery game, then steals the gun when the guy in the booth turns his back for a few seconds. Louise finds Ralph at a dunking booth, sitting in the dunking chair, and discovers that he's been shot. Hmmmm....who did we just see get his hands on a rifle?

The scene of the crime is blocked off, and Louise asks why anyone would want to murder Ralph. Jody suggests that it was because Ralph was a crrook, which revives my earlier theory that Jody could be doing these killings. We'll just have to see....

At the urging of the mayor, the celebration resumes. Wow, an homage to Jaws? The body is carted away by paramedics, and Uncle Sam watches them without being noticed. Apparently, an outlandish costume and mask give you stealth abilities. And, given that Sam is undead, wouldn't the smell of his rotting flesh be kind of hard to ignore?

Jody tells his mother and aunt that Uncle Sam would have caught the killer faster than the police could, and they both respond that his uncle was a lot less heroic than he assumes. They tell Jody that Sam was physically abusive, and that he wanted people to fear him, on an extreme level. Jody's mother verifies the story, even saying that she was relieved when he got married and moved out of her house.

She goes into some of the details about the abuse they all suffered under Sam's dominance, and Jody begins to realize that there was a side to his uncle that he never let himself see. Then he asks both women why they took the chest of war medals from his bedroom, and they don't know what he's talking about. A police officer interrupts, and asks Jody to go play for a few minutes, so that the adults have a private discussion.

After Jody leaves, the officer announces that the decapitated kid's corpse was discovered. then we abruptly shift the action back to the pot smoker at the grill. She hears something sizzling under the hood of the barbecue, and finds a severed head cooking. Uncle Sam suddenly grabs the back of her head, and makes the girl part of the main course.

The mayor interrupts the live music to announce that the dead body is taken care of. That leads to Barry telling his father that there are more bodies waiting to be found, and of course dad doesn't believe him.

The mayor tries to calm the crowd down, but he seems to have the opposite effect on people. He tells them that the politician who arrived, a congressman, will be making a speech, but no one can find the congressman. That's because Uncle Sam is busy preparing the politician to be murdered.

The mayor refers to the tragedy that happened the previous year, and people in the crowd stare uncomfortably at poor Barry. Then a spotlight turns on, and the crowd gasps when they see the congressman tied to the fireworks display. Ooh, this is gonna hurt...

The politician tries to scream, but he can only make muffled noises. Uncle Sam hits a switch on a control panel, and some sparklers placed in the congressman's chest light up. The investigating officer moves in for a closer look, and is thrown off his feet by a barrage of fireworks that surround the congressman. The lawman rolls down the same hill that the teen did in the sack race, and Uncle Sam impales him when he lands.

Blind Barry asks for a description of what's happening, and his folks prepare to run back to their car without him. Good parenting. Jody shows up to help Barry, and is told that the guy in the costume is his dead uncle. As they debate whether it is him or not, Jed arrives to bring them both someplace safe.

The boys tell him about Sam's return from the dead, and Jed at first remains a skeptic. But when he remembers the feeling he had when he locked eyes with Sam, he knows that the story is somehow true. They encounter Barry's folks, and the folks let Jed take their son with him and Jody. Yup, great parenting.

The trio go to Jody's house, to see if Sam is in his coffin. When they open the lid, they discover Twining's body instead of Sam in there. That convinces Jed that the kids were telling the truth.

Jody's mom comes home, and demands to know why Jed was in the house. After Barry suggests that Sam will likely go after his wife next, Jed leaves the children with the frightened mother, and decides to stop Sam by himself. The mother enters the house to get something, and the kids take off after Jed the second she leaves.

The kids meet up with Jed, who has managed to grab a pistol. They tell him that Uncle Sam won't harm them, and that they would ensure Jed's safety by going with him. Oh yeah? Well what about Mom, you little dipwads? who's going to protect her from Sam?

They enter the house again, only to nearly die at the hands of Louise, who has a huge kitchen knife. Jed gives her his gun, then wanders into the kitchen to call the police. As he dials the number(on a rotary phone! Do people even still have these anymore?), Jed spots the Sam mask nearby. He turns to face the undead killer, and they accuse each other of being bad soldiers.

As Louise and the kids wait for Jed to finish his call, his body comes flying into the living room. He's still alive, and Jed gets out of the way to watch as Sam confronts Louise. After he tries to get her to admit to infidelity, she shoots the zombie several times to no avail.

Jody urges Jed to get the cannon, and Jed leaves to set it up. Before he leaves, though, he suggests that they get to safety and find "Sally". Who is Sally? Wait, is she Louise's sister? With about 10 minutes of film left, did we finally discover her name? Wow.

Jody is left alone in the house to confront his uncle. Sam tells the boy that he came back from the dead to be with him, but that Jody would need to die to be like him. As Jody continues to talk to him, the scene shifts back to Jed, who attaches the cannon to the back of his pickup, and speeds back to the house with it.

Jody tells Sam that he worshipped him as a hero, but that was before Sam started murdering other Americans. The zombie replies that they all needed to pay for his untimely death, and that his cause is just. Blah, blah, blah. This dialogue is just as bad as the melodramatic motives that the killer had in Scream 3.

When Jed and Barry return with the cannon, Jody lures his undead uncle out of the house. He tells Jed and Barry that he wants to be with Sam, and Barry encourages Jed to light the cannon's fuse. At the last moment, Jody leaps out of the way, and is knocked off of his feet by the fiery explosion caused by the impact of the cannonball hitting Sam.

They all look back at the flames and wreckage(from 1 cannonball?!?), and Sam keeps on coming their way. Jody tries to crawl to safety while Jed loads the cannon again. The fuse refuses to light at first, but he eventually gets it working, just as a charred and blazing Sam reaches for his nephew.

The second blast from the cannon takes Sam completely off of his feet. He flies backward into the house, and a series of explosions catch the place on fire. Great. Jody went from being stalked by a zombie, to being homeless. Great plan! Barry and Jed both celebrate their victory, but Jody doesn't seem so sure that they finished Sam off.

In the aftermath of the fire, Jody throws out most of his army toys, into a burning trash can. His mother watches from the porch. He burns the last of the war toys, then turns and stares at his mother with an odd expression. As he gives her an evil smile, the image shatters like glass. During the credits, a creepy poem is read, then the credits end with the guy on stilts in a blooper scene. THE END

Well, I've seen worse....that's damning it with faint praise, huh? It would have been interesting to see what they could have done in a sequel. Maybe a female in the military could have been killed, and Uncle Sam could have made her his own "Betsy Ross" or something. Like the suggestion for a sequel to Dr. Giggles would have been "Nurse Giggles". Come on Hollywood writers! Start getting those scripts written!

Also,they should have had Sam use more military- and holiday-themed one-liners when killing his targets. Stuff like, "Drop dead, and give me 20!", or "War isn't Hell, I am!" would have given the film much more personality. Oh and 2 trees out of 5, mostly for the late kills, which were fairly decent. But it

And what did I learn from Uncle Sam?

-Zombies breathe a lot, especially when chasing their victims.

-Zombies can mingle with crowds of people, and only children will notice. Especially blind kids.

-Cannons are a zombie's only weakness. Well, that and the thought of banging their widows.

My next movie is one that scared the crap out of me as a kid, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, See you next week!