The writer and director behind the MANIAC COP movies reteamed for a film that could be retitled "Maniac Patriot." The body of Sam Harper (David Shark Fralick), a soldier killed by friendly fire, is found on a Desert Storm battlefield and shipped back to his small hometown. There, both his wife Louise (Anne Tremko) and her sister, divorcee Sally Baker (Leslie...read more
The writer and director behind the MANIAC COP movies reteamed for a film that could be retitled "Maniac Patriot."
The body of Sam Harper (David Shark Fralick), a soldier killed by friendly fire, is found on a Desert Storm battlefield and shipped back to his small hometown. There, both his wife Louise (Anne Tremko) and her sister, divorcee Sally Baker (Leslie Neale), are still living with memories of Sam's
violent nature. Sally's young son Jody (Christopher Ogden) idolizes his uncle and hopes to follow him into the Army; local veteran Jed (Isaac Hayes) tries to dissuade him. A trio of young punks burn an American flag over the grave where Sam is to be buried, and the corpse comes to life, killing
two of them. Sam then steals an Uncle Sam costume and slays its owner.
The next day, the disguised Sam invades a Fourth of July celebration, where he kills a number of people who have betrayed their country, including draft-dodging teacher Donald Crandall (Timothy Bottoms); Phil (Matthew Flint), a tax cheat who's been courting Sally; the last of the flag-burning
punks; and a crooked visiting congressman (Robert Forster). Barry (Zachary McLemore), a friend of Jody's who was blinded in a fireworks accident, senses Sam's presence, and the ghoul soon confronts Louise at her house. While Jody distracts Sam, Jed brings over an antique cannon that he uses to
blow Sam away. But Sam's spirit may live on in Jody...
The idea of a dead soldier who comes to life to kill in the name of patriotism was a natural for director William Lustig and writer Larry Cohen, after their explorations of undead justice in the MANIAC COP trilogy. The result is an entertaining film, though a fairly schematic and predictable one;
Cohen's script spends the first half establishing how its supporting characters have done wrong to the spirit of America, and the second bumping them off (through such appropriate implements as flagpoles and fireworks). Ironically, there's more than a bit of an antimilitary slant in the film
itself: Sam's battlefield heroics are linked directly to a lust for violence that Sally, Louise, and Jed try to wean out of Jody.
Lustig keeps the action moving, with convincing special effects and stuntwork and a fun supporting cast of character actors, including Forster, Bottoms, Bo Hopkins, P.J. Soles, and William Smith. As the kindly, regretful veteran, Hayes is solid and sympathetic, though it's hard not to think of
Hayes's "Chef" role on the "South Park" TV series during his bonding scenes with Jody. While he keeps a sense of fun about the proceedings, Lustig never descends into an outright spoof; a closing homage and dedication to Italian goremeister Lucio Fulci seem a bit out of place, though, as UNCLE SAM
isn't nearly as singlemindedly gruesome as Fulci's work. (Graphic violence, adult situations, nudity, substance abuse, profanity.)
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