★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Pulling off a feature length film takes some serious gumption. Pulling off a film that balances impeccable comedic timing, a fully realized soundtrack, empathetic characters, complicated friendships, and a heaping dose of spatter gore — well, that’s a whole different story. Directed by horror short filmmaker Matthew John Lawrence, Uncle Peckerhead hits every single note and simultaneously manages to bang out a gory film that would make Herschell Gordon Lewis blush.
Uncle Peckerhead follows the pitfalls and travails of barely-formed punk band, DUH. Lead by the wonderfully powerful and equally uncertain bass playing Judy (Chet Seigel, Upright Citizens Brigade), her dumb but earnest guitarist Max (Jeff Riddle — responsible for much of the music in the film), and her snarky but prescient drummer Mel (Ruby McCollister). The band, DUH, desperate to begin their first ever six city tour, is in need of a van. Their sloth-like ways have seen their van repossessed and the only way forward is to plaster the city with flyers asking the hyper-questionable question “Can we borrow your van?” Followed by the rejoinder “Paid-ISH.”
Their flyer-happy ways cosmically connect them to one Uncle Peckerhead (short film actor David Littleton). While the band ultimately adopts the moniker “Peck”, Peckerhead proudly declares that’s the only name he’d ever known and the name his daddy would always call out to him. A little leery to accept the strangely kind offers of an enthusiastic 50-year old homeless man, DUH decides that Peckerhead and his van is their only avenue to punk rock stardom.
Unbeknownst to DUH, they’re headlining their first gig — but it’s before an audience of three people. A sleazy promoter, a poorly furnished VA hall, and a less-than-enthusiastic audience has DUH staring at their $3.00 take at the end of the evening. One dollar for each member and none for poor ol’ Peckerhead. Naturally wanting to manufacture trust and sureness with his fellow “band mates” Peck takes matters in his own folksy hands and confronts the sleazy promoter about the shoddy treatment of DUH.
Turns out Peck isn’t just a kindly 50 year old homeless man. Peck is a monster of some sort that turns in to a raving lunatic each night at midnight for 13 minutes. While unbridled carnage is brought to many in his path, Peck is selective and somewhat in control of his sickly slaughter. Not quite a vampire, not quite a werewolf, director Matthew John Lawrence chooses a fun but smarty non-identifiable monster as Peck’s gorehound transformation.
Most of the band, save for Judy’s hyper-focus on getting a record deal, is equal parts terrified by Peck’s behavior and excited that they have a benevolent monster on their side watching their backs. Along the way Peck discloses that the only way to keep his monster-having ways in check is through a haughty dose of insulin each night before midnight. Eventually, DUH gets to take turns administering the insulin to Peck, but not before they share a couple beers and a couple laughs about being a hard touring punk rock trio. In one hysterical interlude “What Happened with the Metalhead in the Parking Lot”, DUH gets to revel in beer, gore, and Punk Rock’s long held acrimony with Metal.
Peck’s role as the benevolent monster protector begins to wear on Judy and the rest of her band mates. Peck’s killings get wilder and more splatter-filled. Judy sees the blood on the wall begins to understand that their growing friendship with their monster angel might just cost the band a shot at putting out their very first 7″ single.
Lawrence assembles a wonderfully developed cast each with their own strengths, foibles, and dubious behavior. All of DUH’s decision making it set with clearly compassionate feelings for their craft, each other, and most importantly their monster protector, Peckhead. Being in a punk rock band that hits it big is probably as improbable as turning out a horror comedy that’s smart not dumb. It might be dumb to be in a touring punk rock band and it might be equally dumb to passively bring a monster on as your roadie, but taken together collectively Uncle Peckerhead turns all this stupidity on its head as a selfless testament to friendship.
Uncle Peckerhead is definitely Rated R and screened at the 2020 Portland Horror Film Festival.