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Uncle Peckerhead Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by DREAD

uncle peckerhead poster large

Written and directed by Matthew John Lawrence
2020, 97 minutes, Not Rated
Released on August 7th, 2020

Starring:
David Littleton as Peckerhead
Chet Siegel as Judy
Jeff Riddle as Max
Ruby McCollister as Mel
Ryan Conrath as Shiloh
Shannon O’Neill as Jen Jennings

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Review:

It’s fair to say that a struggling artist will take a break anywhere he or she can get it. It’s even more fair to say that when you’re starting off, you’re going to find yourself in some pretty humbling and decidedly unglamorous situations as you boldly grasp at stardom. What if your highly capable roadie (who also happens to be funny and congenial) turned out to be a THING with an unquenchable appetite for human flesh and a knack for creative violence? Do you put a stop to it and sever ties for the safety of everyone involved? Or do you sell your soul for rock and roll?

That’s exactly what Judy (Chet Siegel; Search Party) must ultimately decide after digging a hole for her bandmates in punk group DUH. When their van is repossessed on the day they are set to embark on their first tour (six shows in seven days!), Judy and her bandmates – Max (Jeff Riddle; Larry Gone Demon) and Mel (Ruby McCollister; Zhe Zhe) – turn to sticking homemade flyers begging for a ride on the windshields of every potential ride. Their offer is taken up by a man in a Dodge van by the unlikely name of Peckerhead (David Littleton; The Signal). He’s easy to get along with, helpful, and bloodthirsty. Every night he slaughters people wholesale without a care for the consequences, and that is a reckless way to start a musical career. As DUH’s popularity grows on the tour, so does Peckerhead’s taste for human flesh…and organs…and spines…and even the occasional head. Will Judy and DUH make it big, or will they be brought down by their lovable roadie who can’t seem to help killing everyone around him?

Most genres of film are formulaic to some degree, which is precisely why I love the horror-comedy. While there are hallmarks and stylistic tics to many horror-comedies, it’s a sub-genre that doesn’t have a specific formula. The balance between the humor and the terror is tricky; what works wonderfully for one movie can bomb horribly for a similar flick. There’s a magic formula in horror-comedy that’s built around the cohesiveness of the cast and the ability to humanize often silly/stupid/over-the-top characters to the point where you forgive them their often-heinous trespasses.

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Uncle Peckerhead takes the time to let you get to know DUH and absorb their quirks even before Peckerhead arrives on the scene. The band is an extension of the ‘90s punk aesthetic that permeates this film. With music that sounds like it’s straight out of a long-lost director’s cut of Mallrats and a noticeable lack of cell phones and modern tech, Uncle Peckerhead wants you to know that it respects the sound and the era on display. Sure, the scenarios are beyond believable (which is kind of a given), but musicians who’ve hustled and done the grind from shitty show to shitty show will nod in appreciation of the authenticity of life on the road.

There’s some serious drag in various places throughout the 97-minute run time. It seems to be a stylistic choice echoing the punk rock rawness and reality of all that downtime on the road, but it makes Uncle Peckerhead a bit of a slog to get through at times. Luckily, it taps effectively enough into the road movie vibe and delivers the authentic feel of the life of the struggling musician that it will counterbalance that slow-moving hangout feel…once you add in some gloriously wet gore, that is. The practical SFX and big gore gags in Uncle Peckerhead are an unadulterated joy to behold. Call me old fashioned, but I can’t be too hard on a movie that has heads being eaten, whole spinal columns removed, skinned faces, cheesy midnight transformations, and a literal high-pressure shit spray. That just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

David Littleton is a lot of fun as Peckerhead. His Southern sweetness and good-old-boy presentation contain just enough menace below the surface to make Peckerhead believable as a monster. It’s a lighter, horror-comedy version of the Max Cady character in Cape Fear. The chemistry that he has with the whole band (but especially Chet Siegel’s Judy) drives forward a narrative the eschews the traditional story beats and driving conflict in favor of deeper characterization and a “just chilling’” persona.

If you’re in it for a ton of ludicrous gore and a mean streak, then the lovably lazy Uncle Peckerhead won’t be your cup of tea. However, if you’re in it for still-goodly amounts of the wet stuff and a surprisingly big heart, then Uncle Peckerhead might just be your jam.

Either way, what’ll it hurt to pick up a demo, right? It’s only a buck, after all. That rather suspect looking roadie said so…

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Grades:

Movie: 3.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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