The first hurdle of any music-centric film is often the most difficult to clear: the music itself. It’s difficult to get the audience to root for the heroes if their band’s sound is cringe-inducing. Or, even worse, if it’s just plain boring.
The moment that DUH, the struggling punk band at the center of writer/director Matthew John Lawrence’s horror-comedy Uncle Peckerhead, began to play, I knew I had been won over. I felt like I was nineteen again, hanging out at punk bars and experiencing that delicious, golden moment of discovering a new favorite local act. That isn’t to say that DUH’s music was incredible or earth-shattering in its genius – only that it was real. The music in Uncle Peckerhead is certainly not the film’s only strength. It is merely the cherry on top of a fun and thoroughly enjoyable horror flick.
Uncle Peckerhead follows the members of DUH, lead by their plucky and determined bassist (Chet Siegel), as they embark on their very first tour. When their van is stolen at the last minute, the band enlists the help of a mysterious roadie known only as Peckerhead (David Littleton). There is decent chemistry among the three band members, and Littleton’s Peckerhead is instantly likeable.
It only takes a glance to see that the film is treading well-worn ground, at least thematically, by reinterpreting the Faustian bargain. The idea of artists making deals with dark forces in exchange for success is more than a thousand years old (at least), but Uncle Peckerhead manages to breath new life into the trope. There is also a strong feminist undertone to the film; the obstacles DUH face on their journey are primarily the result of toxic masculinity within the music industry.
The subtle social commentary helps Uncle Peckerhead feel fresh and relevant, even as many of its formal elements are laced with nostalgia for the horror films of past decades. It’s clear from the obviously cheap effects in the opening scene and the vintage-style title cards that Uncle Peckerhead is, in many ways, a love letter to B-movie horror. Though the gore has a tendency to be more campy than terrifying, it is both plentiful and well-paced.
Uncle Peckerhead is the whole package. While those looking for a film that will scare their pants off should probably look elsewhere, there is a lot to love about this ridiculously fun and bloody romp. Fake blood with a side of punk rock isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is fun.
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