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Film / Uncle Sam

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He red, white and blew 'em away.

"I thought ghosts were supposed to come out in the dark, not in broad daylight on the Fourth of July!"
Jed Crowley

Uncle Sam is a 1997 Slasher Movie, created by the duo of Larry Cohen and William Lustig.

During the Gulf War, sadistic mercenary door gunner Master Sergeant Sam Harper (David Fralick) was killed along with his crew when their helicopter was shot down by friendly fire over Kuwait. Due to the seclusion of the impact site, Sam's charred corpse went undiscovered for three years, but when it was found, he randomly sprung to life and murdered two fellow soldiers, a sergeant and a major, before falling inert. After the double homicide was presumably blamed on enemy forces, Sam's body was collected and shipped to his hometown of Twin Rivers, where it was left in the possession of his family; his wife Louise, who is currently dating local Deputy Phil Burke, (Matthew Flint) and sister Sally (Leslie Neale), whose son, an awkward and extremely patriotic boy named Jody (Christopher Ogden), idolized Sam, unaware of his violent and troubled past.

As Sam's family and friends —of which includes his mentor, former sergeant Jed Crowley (Isaac Hayes), who regrets filling Sam's head with stories of the glories of war, pay their reluctant respects to the dead man, the town prepares for its Fourth of July celebration, which local and extremely corrupt congressman Alvin Cummings (Robert Forster) will be attending, in an attempt to salvage his public image. Unfortunately for Twin Rivers, Sam comes out of hibernation when the clock strikes midnight on July 3rd, kills a perverted man for his Uncle Sam costume, and sets about murdering all those he views as unpatriotic, including but not limited to flag burners, draft dodgers, tax evaders, stoners and slimy politicians. When Sam ultimately crashes the town's Fourth of July celebration, Jody and Jed, and a crippled boy named Barry Cronin with an inexplicable connection to Sam must work together to send the psycho soldier back to Hell.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Artificial Limbs: Jed's wooden right leg.
  • Asshole Victim: Almost all the victims are given one or two (unpatriotic) Kick the Dog moments.
  • Auto Erotica: A couple are briefly seen making out in an abandoned car.
  • Ax-Crazy: Sam, even before he became undead. Even if he hadn't enlisted and been killed, he probably would've become a Serial Killer, a mercenary, a Terrorist Without A Cause of the Western Terrorists variety or something anyway.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: It's very likely that Sam bought into his own line of bullshit about being a patriot. Long before that, he enjoyed hurting other people, and only joined the army as an excuse to kill.
  • Big Brother Bully: Sam made his sister Sally's life hell since she was six years old. He's also heavily implied to have molested her; it's to the extent that Sally openly admits she was happy when Sam got married and moved out, because then he'd have someone else to victimize.
  • Body Horror: When Sam's face is fully revealed at the end, he looks like a horrible, decayed swamp monster, not a charred corpse.
  • Bound and Gagged: Congressman Cummings is bound, gagged, and tied down to become a human fireworks display.
  • Broken Pedestal: Jody stops idolizing his uncle Sam after his aunt and mother tell him what he was really like.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: It's heavily implied that Sam started sexually abused Sally when they were children, and continued doing so until he moved out.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Along with Jed's cannon, there's also the spray paint cans Sam knocks Rick out with, and the meat cleaver he uses to kill Jesse.
  • Comforting the Widow: Sergeant Twining enjoys informing soldiers' families of their deaths since it gives him a chance to do this.
  • Disappeared Dad: Sally is apparently divorced. The reason for this is revealed to be because she was raped by Sam when she was a child, and as such, found it difficult to trust men.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: All over the place, really, but what really stands out as this are the deaths of Mr. Crandall (a draft-dodger who fled the country during the Vietnam War), Ralph (who expressed disgust with the Gulf War), and the barbecue girl (who left the barbecue to smoke a joint).
  • Domestic Abuse: Sam would frequently beat his wife, Louise, to the extent she was actually in fear for her life.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Jesse gets lost in them during the sack race, and meets Sam, who kills him for intentionally butchering the national anthem earlier.
  • Dream Sequence: Jody has a black and white dream in which he and Sam are marching in a Fourth of July parade.
  • Eagleland: America is a Type 2, as personified mostly in the Crapsack World town of Twin Rivers, due to Sam's bodycount being mostly Asshole Victims who are completely corrupt Americans, the fact Sam died by being killed by his own men in a friendly fire and the Ax-Crazy Sociopathic Soldier Sam himself being an American soldier.
  • Eye Awaken: Sam does this inside his coffin when senses his grave being desecrated.
  • Fainting: Mrs. Cronin's reaction to Sam massacring the Fourth of July celebration.
  • Fanservice Extra: Willie spies on a woman wearing a towel, and both he and the audience get an eyeful of both sides of her when she drops it.
  • Going Postal: "Way you shoot, you should get a job at the post office!"
  • Gorn: It's a slasher movie — comes with the territory.
  • Groin Attack: There were plenty of rumors that said Jed didn't just lose a leg to a landmine. According to Jed, those rumors are just that: rumors.
  • Menacing Stroll: In true slasher fashion, Sam isn't particularly fast.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: There's only one female victim, although it's implied that Sam meant to kill at least two more.
  • Mooning: After purposely singing the anthem poorly onstage, Jesse moons the audience, with his underpants still on unlike most examples.
  • Morality Pet: Sam may or may not have actually loved Jody, although what his relationship with Jody amounts to is filling his head with lies about the "American Way" that he doesn't even believe in, and at the end, he was prepared to either kill Jody, or let him die with him.
  • More Dakka: After a simple handgun proves ineffective against Sam, the characters upgrade to a cannon.
  • Neck Snap: Sam breaks the sergeant's neck.
  • No Name Given: For some victims like the sergeant, the major, the barbecue girl and the mayor.
  • Noodle Incident: The fireworks-related accident that disfigured, blinded and crippled Barry.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We don't see how Sam kills Willie with the garden shearsnote , only hear it.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: When Sam is stalking Jesse. It's done in such an absurd way that it has to be parodying this trope.
  • Off with His Head!:
    • Sam severs Willie's head offscreen with a pair of garden shears.
    • Sam beheads Jesse when he runs across him after falling down the hill in a potato sack race.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jed's reaction when he spots Sam's discarded mask while trying to call for help.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Subverted. Sam uses this as an excuse to kill, but in reality, he would have likely ended up acting out on his homicidal urges whether or not he enlisted in the army. If anything, this is more of a case of You Keep Telling Yourself That.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Jesse's severed head being found in the barbecue.
  • The Peeping Tom: Willie is caught peeping in a woman's window when she drops her towel.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "I hope you got an eyeful."note 
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Ralph's death. Justified, as Sam killed him with a BB gun.
  • Punched Across the Room: Happens to Jed, courtesy of Sam for the line listed under Shut Up, Hannibal!.
  • Rape as Backstory: Heavily implied, but never outright stated to be the case with Sally. She tells Jody about how Sam — her brother — would do things to her that "even at that age, [she] knew were wrong".
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Sam only joined the military so he could get a free pass to kill people. He's not much better as a zombie.
  • The Stoner: The girl manning the barbecue, who tries to sneak away to smoke cannabis, but is caught.
  • Summer School Sucks: Somewhat downplayed example. Jody is still in school in early July; you can see "Summer Session" written on the classroom blackboard. However, it's not clear if he's there because he's fallen behind, or if he just wants to continue his studies uninterrupted.
  • Terrible Trio: Jesse, Clete and Rick are a group of vandals who desecrate the graves of soldiers and burn flags. Jesse also sabotages the National Anthem onstage.
  • Title Drop: Since the killer is named Sam, and he's the main character's uncle, and he's dressed as Uncle Sam, this of course happens a lot.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: Jody uses one to dispose of his toys right before the credits.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Jody idolizes his uncle Sam, and refuses to listen to anything negative about him or about war in general, even repeating some of the more. He also repeatedly states that he wants to grow up to be like Sam, although he's unaware of the truth. Not helping is his completely emotionless demeanor throughout the film.
  • Uncle Sam Wants You: ... Dead!
  • Unnecessary Roughness: It's just a sack race, Jesse.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Clete is hung from a flagpole.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: After snapping a sergeant's neck, Sam shoots the corpse several times, killing the nearby major due to the bullets ripping through it.
  • Villain Opening Scene: Sam killing the sergeant and major who find his crashed helicopter in Kuwait.
  • Wait Here: Barry is in a wheelchair and all...
  • War Is Glorious: Jody sees it this way, thanks to the lies his crazed uncle fed him.
  • War Is Hell: Jed tries to talks Jody out of his plans of joining the military by telling him how horrible war is.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So, along with the sergeant and the major, did Sam kill the other soldiers who found him, or what?
    • Presumably, he died from his injuries shortly after being found, and the remaining soldiers shipped his body home.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Sam rises from his coffin at exactly midnight.