Uncle Sam (1996 Video)
Half realized
11 September 2005
Semi-sober satirical horror film, pleasingly directed by William Lustig from a script by the ever-maddening Larry Cohen -- well matched collaborators who fall just short of taking that extra step, that could've turned this gleefully subversive gore fest into a runaway cult item.

Update and reconstruction of Bob Clark's "Deathdream" (among its many other titles), with a zombified Gulf War casualty of "friendly fire" back for burial in his hicktown, where he rises to wreak havoc during the patriotic hysteria of a fourth of July celebration. Victims are a round-up of America's most loathed -- corporate swindler, teen sociopaths and druggies, smarmy politician, corrupt cop, pious draft dodger, sex deviant, military geek -- and he bumps them all off in grandly inventive ways (the ones we're allowed to see), while dressed and masked as the title fetish.

The main trouble is that the tale is wildly rushed -- too many awful characters crammed in (and worse, wonderfully written and performed by the thrilling cast, for what we see of them) just to die or disappear within the deliberate time frame, clearly only there to represent their stereotypes, and one is left feeling cheated out of getting to know them better. Same with the good guys -- the wonderful Isaac Hayes vet with a conscience, and that pair of screwed-up boys, and the blonde sisters-in-law... just pushed ahead and out of sight by the plot, audience interest be damned.

I was left reminded of the better Stephen King mini-serieses, and how Cohen and Lustig had all the makings of a small town, leisurely horror epic here -- something that should have unfolded over lots of hours, drawing the audience into this town and its people and the horror creeping up on it, but combined with the jeering social satire one sees on British TV. Instead they compacted things into flotsam for the video shelves, a true waste of talent and great ideas.
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