Published Aug 23, 2020Despite its foul-mouthed title, Uncle Peckerhead is much sweeter than one might imagine. More road movie than balls-to-the-wall zombie madness, Uncle Peckerhead is light on the actual scares but makes up with great comic timing and deadpan one-liners from a likable cast. It may lack energy sometimes, but it's a good deal of fun once it really ramps up.
Uncle Peckerhead follows flat-broke indie punk band Duh as they prepare to embark on their first tour — "band mom" and bassist Judy (Chet Siegel), loveable guitarist Max (Jeff Riddle) and sarcastic drummer Mel (Ruby McCollister). When their van gets repossessed the morning they're supposed to hit the road, Duh desperately starts searching for a new — ideally free — vehicle. They're fresh out of leads until they meet a grizzled old Southerner who introduces himself as Uncle Peckerhead (David Littleton), and offers up his van as well as his services as driver and roadie. "Pec" (to his friends) is definitely eccentric but seems like a nice enough guy. Until Judy discovers him devouring a sleazy promoter who stiffed them on their cut, that is.
It turns out, Uncle Pec is afflicted with some sort of "condition" that turns him into a flesh-eating monster every midnight for thirteen minutes. Up until this point, he's been doping himself up with drugs to pass out every night before the clock strikes twelve, but, angered by the band's shabby treatment, Pec decided to skip the evening's dose to get even — and steal a few hundred bucks.
Initially horrified, but intrigued, Max and Mel convince a still-suspicious Judy that having Uncle Pec and his unique abilities on their side could end up being useful. Besides, he's got it all under control... right?
Uncle Peckerhead takes a familiar story — struggling musicians willing to do whatever it takes, even when that "whatever" starts to look like murder — but manages to stand out with a witty, goofy script that's fresh and fun even when the narrative beats are pretty familiar. For a film that's more comedy infused with a dash of horror, it's great at accurately capturing the particular frustrating reality of "trying to make it" — getting paid almost nothing performing for a bored, sparse crowd at shitty bars. But it's clear from the first moment we watch Duh play that they possess real talent and musical chemistry, which makes it even easier to root for them. Max, Mel and Judy are likable and real, and Uncle Pec, rather than being the film's de-facto villain, is an affable Southern hillbilly with unflappable practicality and loyalty that gets him into trouble.
Horror doesn't always need to explode with gore, but if Uncle Peckerhead has a failing, it's that it doesn't do enough with the whole "monstrous cannibal" side of the film. The guts and gore, while inventive and impressive for an indie, start to taper off midway through the film, and the pace starts to slow when the plot focuses more centrally on the band itself. Not every joke totally lands, and a couple of running gags don't always have the most creative payoff. A B-plot surrounding a rival band — uber-pretentious art-punks Dominion Rising — is mostly a series of one-note (but entirely accurate) jabs aimed at mansplaining musicians. Pitting the scrappy underdogs against the jerks who take themselves too seriously isn't the most original storyline, but Uncle Peckerhead wisely decides that is one moment in which gory, silly fun is the way to go. (levelFILM)