Color, 2020, 95 mins. 58 secs.
Directed by Matthew John Lawrence
Starring Chet Siegel, David H. Littleton, Jeff Riddle, Ruby McCollister, Shannon O'Neill
Epic Pictures (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Horror movies have long thrived on working in elements of rock, punk, and metal to varying degrees over the years, with a lineage that extends from Phantom of the Paradise to Black Roses to Deathgasm and Green Room. A new addition to that roster is Peckerhead, a punk-flavored, gory horror comedy that's far more amusing and splattery than the average indie fare. Featuring four strong central performances and a quirky attitude, not to mention gallons of practical splatter effects, it's a good one to break out when you need a fun party movie late at night.
After ditching her miserable job at a cafe, Judy (Siegel) runs over to a local venue with a demo tape to get an opening gig for her band, DUH. Unfortunately, her plans to make it big with band mates Max (Riddle) and Mel (McCollister), complete with a map of potential gigs and a plan to score a record deal with promoter Jen Jennings (O'Neill), are thrown into disarray when their van gets repossessed. In desperation they plant flyers all over town Peckerhead (Littleton), an odd Southern gentleman who lives out of his own van and agrees to provide transportation as long as he can be their road manager. When their first gig together rakes in a measly three dollars, the other shoe drops and they learn Peckerhead's big secret: at midnight, he turns into a fanged demon for thirteen minutes and murders anyone who stands in their way. Though horrified at first, the trio soon come to accept him in different ways and decide he could be an asset, even if he tends to rip off their rivals' heads and eat them.
Part road movie, part buddy comedy, part punk musical, and all nuts, this one might be a little tricky to sell to newbies but definitely merits a look as it quickly moves from one set piece to another with random bits of violent mayhem as heads and spines go flying at the stroke of midnight. The songs are lots of fun, too, and since music has long fit well with Faustian stories, it turns out to be an appropriate fit. They even figure out an unpredictable and interesting way to wrap up the story that's a bit different than you might expect while remaining true to the core concept of the film, and should they ever decide to move it on to a sequel, that wouldn't be such a bad idea.
Shot digitally like most indie horror films these days, Uncle Peckerhead looks slick and glossy throughout with some stylish splashes of color and stylized lighting in a few judicious moments where it's needed. Audio options are English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 (not a massive difference between the two as both have some nice separation during the music performances), with optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. Director/writer/producer Matt Lawrence, Littleton, Riddle (who also wrote the songs), costume designer/production designer/co-producer Wicky Mendoza, and actor/line producer Ryan Conrath turn up for a funny audio commentary that runs through pretty much every aspect of the production including the significance of many casting choices, the shooting locations (primarily in New Jersey with other bits in Philadelphia and Brooklyn), and just about everything else you could want to know. Considering this was all wrangled and recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's pretty impressive and seamless. Other extras include two trailers (red band and green band), a "Holy Mess" music video, a "Larry Gone Demon" short film (14m28s) with some very familiar cast members, and "The Music of DUH" (11m10s), an audio reel of songs from the film.
Reviewed on September 2, 2020.