REVIEW: Uncle Peckerhead (2020)
Put together in the right hands, horror and comedy can go down as a monster hit, or blend together like blood and oil. For some it’s a stepping stone that can lead to great things. Edgar Wright built his career off it, James Gunn had some fun with it before he tackled the Guardians, and the late Wes Craven even had a stab at it with a franchise that even now is set to come screaming back into cinemas. For Matthew John Lawrence, his handling of the grotesque and the giggles needs to be commended for a directorial debut, even if he’s a tad off balance with both in the brilliantly titled Uncle Peckerhead.
Packed with schlock and ready to rock, the film sees Judy (Chet Siegel) and her band Duh, primed and prepped for their first gig, only to immediately hit a bump in the road after their ride gets taken away. Without a wagon to get them and their tour on track, Judy, Mel (Ruby McCollister) and Max (Jeff Riddle) take upon the kindness of a mysterious stranger, which in this case is a random gent by the name of Peckerhead. Offering up his wheels and services as the band’s new roadie, Duh’s lead singer has doubts of the ill-named individual which are quickly realised when it’s discovered Peckerhead transforms into a demon at midnight for a bloodthirsty 13 minutes. Cursed to deal with the issue, the band and their new hype man come to a reluctant partnership that finds them getting closer to their goal of success, and a growing body count to match.
Feeling like its almost cut from the same cloth as an entry from Kevin Smith’s Askewniverse, there’s a feisty, rough around the edges energy to Uncle Peckerhead that makes itself known as soon as Siegel enters the frame. Her group might be Duh, but she’s undoubtedly the brains and the strongest element of this zom-com with a band to boot. The voice of reason amidst the claret and questionable fluids, Siegel meets her match in David Littleton’s Uncle of no relation. A misunderstood monster who immediately hits it off with the Duh’s, there’s an undeniable charm that chips away at Judy’s reluctant leader, that you’ll no do doubt feel as well thanks to Littleton being so damn loveable, albeit an organ-munching beast from hell. Wanting only but the best for his new pals on the road, the bloodthirsty band mate nails being the timid soul with a far darker side he’s desperate to keep at bay. It’s only when he lets rip that the film starts to lose its way.
There’s no question that the cast at the centre of this kooky collision of laughs and severed limbs is giving it their all and you’ll easily learn to love them for it. There’s not a dislikable one among the bunch of them – it’s just the story they’re inhabiting that causes them issues. The second the supernatural and stupidly gory element comes into play in this rowdy road movie, the tone struggles to stay the course, mainly because they can’t merge effectively. The origins of Peckerhead’s nightly activities aren’t explained enough to feel a fully fleshed part of the character and feel more like a weak element that’s there for visual gags and gross out moments, which just don’t gel with everything else that’s going on. This road trip movie of random and colourful characters almost feel they’re in a completely different route to the one Matthew John Lawrence is trying to send us on. So much so, that when tension starts to grow between the Duh’s and their driver, it feels shoehorned in for an iffy finale that could’ve been handled far more effectively, saved only by the cast to keep you interested.
Ultimately, there’s a lot of promise in the mad and occasionally macabre bloody band of misfits involved in Uncle Peckerhead. The chemistry between the cast on this highway to hell and half-empty bar gigs is clearly present (with Siegel and Littleton earning most the credit), it’s just a shame the story can’t keep up with them. Had more time been spent on the horror and the humour trying to be stitched together, this may have been a worthy movie watch, instead of ending things on a fairly flat note.