I’ll be the first to admit, there are times when I watch the trailer for a new horror movie and I just have mixed feelings about whether it’s going to be any good.
This quandary can create problems, especially when it comes to finding the inspiration to actually watch said horror movie, because usually my initial gut reaction proves right.
But not with “Uncle Peckerhead,” and thank fuck for that.
“Uncle Peckerhead” is a gloriously gory coming-of-age story about a three-piece post-punk band called Duh that’s fronted by Judy (Chet Siegel), Max (Jeff Riddle) and Mel (Ruby McCollister).
On the eve of their first-ever regional tour, Duh’s van is repossessed, leaving them without wheels to make it to each of their gigs. In a twist that only happens in movies, Judy and Max happen upon a greasy, seemingly good-natured cracker who calls himself Peckerhead, or Peck, for short.
Peck offers to let Duh use his van on two conditions: One, he does the driving, and two, they allow him to serve as their roadie. He fails to mention, however, that every night at midnight, for exactly 13 minutes, Peck transforms into something dangerous, a thing with a voracious appetite and superhuman strength.
What the early trailers for “Uncle Peckerhead” failed to convey is just how layered this film is, and how well it works on nearly every level. With his sophomore feature, writer-director Matthew John Lawrence has created something special that exceeds expectations.
“Uncle Peckerhead” is that rare genre picture that just gets better, and better, and better, the further along it plays. It’s ridiculously funny and peppered throughout with some stellar one-liners and sly social commentary.
After their first show of the tour, Judy receives $3 as payment from the venue promoter. She asks what she’s supposed to do with three single dollar bills.
“I don’t know, invest in a better band,” the guy says.
Minutes later, Peck kills him. When the band discovers Peck covered in gore, his mouth slick from eating the promoter’s face, they berate him and he begs for a chance to explain.
“I stuck up for all of us,” Peck says.
“By eating him?” the band asks.
“I realize that might seem like an extreme response,” Peck concedes.
One of the biggest surprises is how each of the characters feel real, and act real, even when faced with some truly messed up situations.
“Uncle Peckerhead” also is one of the few movies about a fictional punk rock band where the band is actually really, really good, as in you would readily buy a ticket to see Duh play live.
Another revelation is David Littleton, who makes his feature-film debut as Peckerhead. Littleton is so good in this role that he should immediately remind horror fans of Sid Haig, circa 2003, when Haig tore through Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses,” and entered horror’s elite stable of iconic actors.
4 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 97 minutes
Now available on major streaming platforms
When the third act kicks in, the film transforms again, turning deadly serious, as Peck’s murderous tendencies threaten to derail Judy’s aspirations of finally breaking big.
As the body count rises, and law enforcement gets involved, Lawrence saves a great twist for his closing scene.
I wont spoil it here, but suffice to say, “Uncle Peckerhead” concludes with an epic performance and a blistering revelation that the dreams we fight hardest for can also lead to our destruction.
If that’s not punk rock in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.
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