William Lustig's (Maniac/Maniac Cop) 1997 slasher, Uncle Sam, is a fun, oftentimes goofy horror flick that takes a fairly wide swipe at former President Bush and his insane little war in the desert, way back when, before his son decided to wage an even crazier, larger, and infinitely more ill-advised war against just about everyone else on Earth. So it's high time that this tongue-in-cheek slasher/anti-war statement gets a DVD release from Lustig's own company, Blue Underground.
Set a few years after the Gulf War, the titular Uncle Sam (Fralick) is a downed chopper pilot whose body is recovered and flown back to the United States for his family to lay to rest. Trouble is, no one back home is terribly fond of Sam. Not his wife or sister, whom he terrorized and abused. Not his former drill Sergeant, Jed (Hayes), who had a problem with Sam's apparent lust for the kill. No, the only person who seems to miss Sam at all is his young nephew Jody, a boy who barely knows his uncle, but thinks he is a hero. After all, he has the medals to prove it!
Jody is disgusted by the way people seem to ignore Sam's service to his country, and his childlike fascination with all things war, as well as a desire to see the un-patriotic somehow punished for their anti-American ways, serves as some strange impetus in reviving his dead uncle. Once Sam's back up and about, he dons an Uncle Sam costume that he gathers from an early victim, and goes about the task of killing everyone in his path.
Uncle Sam is over-the-top, gory fun that's more funny than it is scary, and a lot of that can be credited to the inclusion of Isaac Hayes as the ornery Jed. I don't know about you, but the minute the guy opens his mouth, all I can think of is his South Park alter ego, Chef. Hayes is also given some chucklers to dish out, as is Dave Fralick, whose Sam is equal parts slow moving zombie and wise-cracking Krueger-esque killing machine.
Lustig's film looks quite polished, considering it's a late 90's horror flick (not something studios were exactly throwing money at), and he gets a lot of bang for his buck with nice special effects by Steve Newquist, some insane fire stunts (that are hilariously explained in the commentary track), and solid performances by Hayes, as well as Bo Hopkins, Timothy Bottoms, and cameos from Robert Forster and genre vet William Smith (Maniac Cop).
My main problem with the film is that, at times, it seems that it can't decide whether it wants to humorous or horrific, and Jody's realization that Sam may not, in fact, be a hero comes rather abruptly. Oh, and there's a blind kid in a wheelchair who just sort of shows up in the third act and seems to have all the answers to everything (although I found that all rather hysterical).
The DVD from Blue Underground features a vibrant 16x9 transfer with a booming Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track (as well as the original stereo track). Extras include a new commentary track with Lustig, Writer Larry Cohen and Producer George G. Braunstein, as well as a side-splittingly funny commentary with Lustig and Star Isaac Hayes (Recorded in 1998). There's also a look at the fire stunts, featuring a commentary by Stunt Coordinator Spiro Razatos.
Rounding out the extras are a poster and stills gallery and trailers.
Uncle Sam isn't the most terrifying slasher flick you're apt to see, but that's probably because it's not meant to be. It's got enough splatter to keep gorehounds happy, a lot of humor, and a goofy-as-all-get-out conclusion (as well as a coda that's a nod to the late Lucio Fulci. How can horror fans not like that?!). Uncle Sam's also got a message that carries more weight now than it did back in 1997.