Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you Epic Pictures and Subtle T-Rex Productions for allowing me early access to an online screener of the new Horror/Comedy “Uncle Peckerhead”, Written and Directed by Matthew John Lawrence (Larry Gone Dead). Uncle Peckerhead is a punk-rock genre-blend about three piece band “Duh”, led by Judy (the wonderful Chet Siegel), who are preparing for their first tour with the hopes of obtaining a record deal. Due to unforeseen complications with travel arrangements, circumstances see the trio joined by a cannibal man/demon and volunteer roadie who goes by the name “Peck” (played by David Littleton) and that’s where things start to take a turn for the worse. The film also stars Jeff Riddle, Ruby McCollister, and Greg Maness.
In spite of its rather seemingly off the cuff title, Uncle Peckerhead makes for an interesting premise to a horror/comedy film. I remember catching Lawrence’s similarly themed (albeit a different sub-genre of horror) aforementioned short “Larry Gone Dead” several years back, and whilst it didn’t necessarily stand out, there were still some good ideas at play. There’s a clear evolution in both Matthew’s writing and direction of this ludicrous little film. The duo of Kyle Kelley and Michael Sutter are behind the camera, and much to my surprise, their differing levels of experience ultimately have no bearing on the overall quality of cinematography. Everything is well shot and nicely framed, making for a clean edit from Lawrence himself. Being a musician, I simply couldn’t look past the cool punk rock soundtrack as being perhaps the best technical facet. I grew up in the early 2000’s so I was constantly hearing shades of stuff like “Mxpx”, “Lagwagon”, and more recently “Math The Band” in here. Lawrence undoubtedly delivers on the promise of both gory mayhem and laughs aplenty. There’s a couple of early scenes that showcase some of the quality practical fx, but majority of the action sequences occur much later in the film – the highlight of which is a graphic decapitation (let’s be honest, is there any other kind haha). Ample of the red stuff will ensure genre fans a good time.
What ultimately ends up separating Lawrence’s film from its other absurd counterparts is his dry approach to the material and the ability to identify talented actors with instinctive comedic timing. This band consisting of a desperate day-time baker in Judy, a slacker Max, and a pessimistic Mel, are all likeable characters brought to life by impressive young actors. From the outset, Siegel’s offbeat but cute nature and take on Judy is likely to draw comparisons to fellow actress, Zooey Deschanel (500 Days Of Summer). I thoroughly enjoyed watching her pilot the film and am not surprised that she’s been working in comedy for several years. As for Riddle and McCollister, they’re the yin to her yang – with the latter providing some incredibly dry one-liners over the course of the tour (see what I did there… yeah yeah, I know). As good as the trio is, the revelation here is David Littleton as “Peckerhead” (the justification for why he identifies himself that way is simple yet very funny). I was genuinely taken aback by how good his accent, timing and performance were (especially given he only has a handful of shorts credited to his name). I’m choosing to believe that his character here is somehow the younger version of the older “Paul Edgecomb” (in The Green Mile)…. it’s really just purely because he looks and sounds like him – but still (haha). If you’ve ever been in a struggling local band you’ll likely find plenty of relatable humor in here. I laughed at the issues with the stage mix and feedback, merch sales, finding places to crash for the night, and bands who think they’re the next big thing when they’re really not.
If I’m being nit picky (which I am) I’d say that the film could’ve benefited from either a slightly higher body count or an improved display. Those of you who might be looking for the common introductory exposition dump will likely be left cold as there isn’t anything learnt about Peck’s unsavory cravings or where it all stems from (or at least not that I picked up). The added excrement in one particular action scene was perhaps a bit much and the resolution opted for by Lawrence left me a little unsatisfied. By and large though, Uncle Peckerhead is a great little indie Horror/Comedy featuring some very talented individuals. It feels like a mix of “Eddie The Sleepwalking Cannibal” and “Deathrot”. The technical aspects are all well conceived, the soundtrack is a blast, and the characterization and performances are highly entertaining. This is one of the first American comedies in a while that doesn’t try so hard to be funny – it just naturally is. I found the band content relatable, the types of gags worked, and the practical fx look great. Aside from a few minor shortcomings and personal preference related specifics, Uncle Peckerhead may just prove to be one of the best independent films of the year. It’ll be available through VOD and virtual streaming on August 11th. You can check out the official trailer below – Enjoy!
Uncle Peckerhead – 7.5/10