James Jay Edwards reviews Uncle Peckerhead, a punk horror-comedy written and directed by Matthew John Lawrence, and a perfect midnight movie.
When you’re in a touring indie punk rock band, you’re only as good as your roadie, right? If your roadie is the title character in Uncle Peckerhead, he can be both a blessing and a curse.
Uncle Peckerhead is about a little upstart band called DUH that consists of bassist/bandleader Judy (Chet Siegel), guitarist/vocalist Max (Jeff Riddle), and drummer Mel (Ruby McCollister). The day before they are to leave for their big tour, their van is repossessed. While searching for new wheels, they come across just what they need—a guy with a van. His name is Uncle Peckerhead (David Littleton), and he agrees to drive them on their campaign.
(Uncle Peckerhead, theatrical release poster, Epic Pictures)
But Peck comes with some baggage. Every night at midnight for thirteen minutes, he turns into a ravenous homicidal beast. He takes sedatives to make sure he’s asleep during this time so that he can’t cause problems, but when the perils of the road befall the band, DUH finds a way to use Peck’s violent tendencies to their advantage, be it for physical protection from thugs or just to keep from getting ripped off by club owners. Soon enough, Peck’s killings threaten to stand in the way of DUH’s rock and roll dreams.
Although Uncle Peckerhead claims to be “based on a true story,” it’s way too absurd for that. And that’s the point. Writer/director Matthew John Lawrence (Two Pints Lighter) has a lot of fun with his rock and roll horror fantasy. The Peckerhead monster mythology is both hilarious and horrifying, the character being some sort of a cross between a werewolf and a zombie, at least for the thirteen minutes a day that he’s not just a regular weirdo. It’s unclear as to what parts of the story are “true,” but one would guess that somewhere, somehow, some band that Lawrence knew went on tour. And that’s that.
(Uncle Peckerhead, Epic Pictures)
But movies don’t need to be believable to be entertaining. Uncle Peckerhead has enough death and dismemberment to satisfy the horror freaks, and enough tongue-in-cheek humor to get the comedy fans rolling (“Why did you call your band DUH?” “James Taylor was already taken”). But the movie may be most effective when it combines the two. While there’s nothing particularly scary about Uncle Peckerhead, the gore gags are hysterical, visually recalling the splatter flicks of H.G. Lewis. The audience laughs and cheers with each of Peck’s misdeeds.
At the center of Uncle Peckerhead is the very likable Judy, whose only goal in life seems to be to see her band make it big. Her hard work writing songs, making a demo, and setting up a tour all gets her closer to an opening show with one of her favorite bands whose drummer owns the record label which she hopes will sign her (and, in an instance of too-cute-for-real-life, this all happens in about a week). She’s initially skeptical of the creepy Peck, but when the chips are down, the guy seems to be in her and her bandmates’ corner. Eventually, she has to decide what price she is willing to become a rock star. Uncle Peckerhead is hardly Faust, but a case could be made for it having a similar theme.
(Uncle Peckerhead, Epic Pictures)
And then there’s the music. For as silly of a band as DUH seems, their songs kind of rock. Their music was written by Jeff Riddle, who plays Max the guitarist in the film, and the sound is noise pop, basically Hüsker Dü with the boy-girl vocal thing of X. The band and its members are goofy, but their music is slick and polished, and the quality tunes make the viewer root for them even more. Sure, they accomplish in a week what most bands work towards for years, but with songs like that, no one can say that they don’t deserve it. Especially with their secret weapon Peckerhead up their sleeves.
As far as rock and roll schlock cinema goes, Uncle Peckerhead gets the job done. It’s not going to win any awards, and it most likely will be forgotten in a few months, left behind in the wasteland of streaming services to hope for a cult following to someday emerge. But that describes most modern low-budget horror movies. And Uncle Peckerhead is fun while it’s on the screen.