Uncle Sam is a 1996 horror feature film directed by William Lustig (Maniac; Maniac Cop) from a screenplay by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive; Q – The Winged Serpent; The Stuff). The movie stars William Smith, David ‘Shark’ Fralick, Leslie Neale and Bo Hopkins.
In Kuwait, a military unit uncovers an American helicopter downed by friendly fire at least three years ago. As the wreckage is inspected, Master Sergeant Sam Harper, one of the burnt bodies within, springs to life, kills a sergeant and a major, and returns to an inert state after muttering, “Don’t be afraid, it’s only friendly fire!”
Weeks later, Sam’s body is delivered to his hometown of Twin Rivers, which is preparing for Independence Day. Sam’s wife Louise is given custody of the casket containing Sam’s remains, which are left in the home of Sam’s estranged sister Sally, who lives with her patriotic young son, Jody. Sam reanimates in the early hours of the Fourth of July and proceeds to kill and steal the costume of a perverted Uncle Sam. Sam then makes his way to a cemetery, where he murders two of three juvenile delinquents who had vandalized tombstones and desecrated an American flag.
During the Independence Day celebration (which a corrupt congressman is visiting) Sam beheads the third delinquent, kills Jody’s teacher (who had opposed the Vietnam War) with a hatchet, and shoots Sally’s unscrupulous lawyer boyfriend in the head. Despite these deaths, the festivities continue but are thrown into disarray when Sam uses the fireworks gear to blow up the congressman, and a flagpole to impale Louise’s deputy boyfriend. As this occurs, Jody is told by his mother and aunt that his supposedly heroic idol Sam was, in fact, an alcoholic psychopath who physically and sexually abused them, and only joined the military so he could get a “free pass” to kill people…
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“There is a very subversive film to be made from his script that undercuts the faux-patriotism of blindly following your country’s government, no matter how morally questionable its actions. Cohen’s script also tries to graft on a critique of how the military might appeal to angry, violent young men and how the military sees them as useful assets in times of war. Both issues make for intriguing subtexts, but it seems like one too many elements for director William Lustig to wrangle into a coherent whole.” Matt Wedge, Obsessive Movie Nerd
“Complementing Cohen’s note-perfect string of nationalistic platitudes, Lustig’s surprisingly evocative widescreen compositions are peppered with an absurd parade of Americana—fireworks, potato-sack races, even a morose, wheelchair-bound young boy as a ludicrous representation of the stereotypical Vietnam vet—almost all of which become the instruments of death…” Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine
“There are a couple of “Hi I’m – killed” characters, but for the most part they are given a few scenes before being offed, and only one character is killed for no reason (the others are flag burners, crooked politicians, or other “Anti-American” types). Again, this was most unusual for a slasher movie, and even more surprising when you consider the ridiculous concept.” Horror Movie a Day
‘Theoretically, Uncle Sam’s creators are using the format of the slasher film to make us re-examine our notions of patriotism, of sacrifice, of honor and glory and all that crap, while simultaneously forcing us to come to grips with the idea that most of the alternatives that have thus far been postulated are equally full of shit…’ 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
- William Smith (Grave of the Vampire)
- David ‘Shark’ Fralick
- Leslie Neale
- Bo Hopkins (Tentacles, Sweet Sixteen)
- Matthew Flint
- Anne Tremko
- Isaac Hayes
- Timothy Bottoms (The Fantasist, Parasomnia)
- P.J. Soles (Halloween)
- Tom McFadden
- Morgan Paull
- Richard Cummings Jr.
- Robert Forster (Alligator)
- Jason Adelman
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