Horror-comedies, especially of the creature-feature variety, have become more and more common in recent years. Films like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and Jennifer’s Body have come along, setting a pretty high precedent for what these types of movies should be: funny, entertaining and filled to the brim with gore. But like all genres, you also have the lifeless duds that don’t provide more than a few chuckles and rely far too heavily on just being gross. Uncle Peckerhead, written and directed by Matthew John Lawrence, is an absurd little film that falls somewhere in between.
Uncle Peckerhead follows a down-on-their-luck punk rock band, led by Judy (Chet Siegel). After their van is repo’d, Judy, along with bandmates Mel (Ruby McCollister) and Max (Jeff Riddle), desperately resort to hiring an eccentric drifter named Peckerhead (David Littleton) to drive them cross-country so that they can meet their tour dates. But Peck has a secret. Every night, for exactly 13 minutes, he transforms into a flesh-eating monster, bringing new meaning to the term “road trip buddy from Hell.”
When I went into this movie with the premise in mind, I expected it to be more of a survival-horror story with a bit of comedy sprinkled in (think a low-budget Green Room with monsters). However, this isn’t the case. Despite it’s at-times gruesome content, Uncle Peckerhead never takes itself too seriously and falls more into the buddy-comedy category than anything else. Peck is a full-fledged character with heartfelt intentions, and our protagonists actually start to bond with him. This is definitely elevated by David Littleton’s performance as the aforementioned Peck, who plays the character in the friendliest of ways that almost makes you forget he was tearing someone’s head off five minutes earlier. In fact, the highest praise I have for Uncle Peckerhead is of its characters and the actors’ performances. Each character has a distinct personality, and the actors play their parts with the perfect energy and likeability.
Although, it did at times feel as though the horror aspect was an afterthought. It’s not the intense thrill-ride I was looking for, but I at least expected a few exciting moments. The only scenes that could be defined as “horror” come from Peck devouring his victims, but the gore is comical, over-the-top and almost never scary. This isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it’s okay for a movie to choose silly over scary, but it leads to a climax that feels unsatisfying and out of place. Peck’s addition to the band as a cannibalistic roadie never really influences the plot until the last 20 minutes, and is only along for the ride to add a little spice to the true story of Uncle Peckerhead: Judy, Mel and Max struggling to find their voice in a world of shady club promoters, closet-size venues and rival bands. All in all, Uncle Peckerhead is far from the next Green Room, but with a few bright characters, some good punk music, and a touch of cartoon gore, it manages to be a perfectly passable indie that will surely entertain horror-comedy enthusiasts (and I hear a sequel is already in the works!)