Like everyone else, I truly had no idea what I was in store for when I clicked play on Uncle Peckerhead...
...Its name led me to expect something unsavory with a lot of over the top slapstick humor. But that’s not what I got, and I will never again judge a film by its title; this movie surprised me in every way.
Uncle Peckerhead, writer/director Matthew John Lawrence’s feature length debut, follows indie-punk band DUH: high strung and relentless bassist/lead singer Judy (Chet Siegel), adorable and care-free guitarist/singer Max (Jeff Riddle), and sarcastic and eternally pessimistic drummer Mel (Ruby McCollister).
The film opens with a silhouetted man ripping the jawbone from a corpse and eating the meat from it, a mere taste of what we’re in for. We then meet Judy, who has quit her job at a bakery and left after a short and not so heartfelt farewell. She and the band are about to leave for their first tour of six shows in seven days, which will hopefully be capped off with a final show with the Queef Queens, and maybe even a music deal. Every item on their list has been checked off, they’re ready to leave, and then they see their van getting repo’d.
With no other options Judy and Max head out with a bunch of flyers in the hopes of finding a van to borrow. This is how they meet Peckerhead (David Littleton), an older man living in his van, who offers to drive and roadie for them. He seems nice at first, though maybe a little over enthusiastic, but with no other options they accept his offer and finally leave for their tour.
Pretty soon they learn there’s more to Peck than meets the eye. Specifically, a demonic part that comes out for 13 minutes at midnight and eats people. For some, this would be a deal breaker, but the band gives him a chance and carry on with their tour. What could go wrong?
This film is equal parts road trip comedy, great punk music, and a lot of gore. The humor definitely has its moments of being over the top and silly, but there’s also a lot of unexpected deadpan moments and dry comedy that I absolutely loved. As for the music, I for one would be happy to buy a demo from DUH. Riddle, who acted as Max, wrote and recorded the songs used in the film with Christopher Marti, which were exactly the sort of thing I would listen to.
The gore, done by Jared Balog, is over the top and grotesque in the best possible way. It looks a little goofy at times, but never takes away from the film, only adding to the comedic elements and making the horror all the more fun.
Uncle Peckerhead accurately captures the highs and lows of tour life, from having no money and being cramped in a van with bandmates, dealing with awful people while on the road, to the ecstasy of finally being able to do the thing you love. It shows that touring is no easy feat, it takes determination and most of all passion, because only people who truly love doing it will have what it takes to keep going. I think anyone who’s spent time in the music scene will appreciate this story and these characters’ journeys.
The characters were the best part of the film for me. I found myself growing quickly emotionally attached to each of them; they all felt authentic and three-dimensional, and their relationships with one another felt genuine. Peck, who I was wary about in the beginning, became someone I was rooting for even as he ate people. The side characters we meet along the way, from the awful promoter, to the people who offered the band their homes for the night, to the arrogant lead singer of another punk band in love with hearing himself talk all felt well-written and obviously deeply thought out.
The most important and unexpected thing Uncle Peckerhead has is heart, a lot of it, which for me can always make up for a low budget or the occasional bout of silliness.
Uncle Peckerhead is out now on VOD from Epic Pictures and Dread.
By Danielle Vanderstock