There are notable horror films that take place on or around the 4th of July (such as Jaws, and I Know What You Did Last Summer), but this might be the only slasher film where a zombie dressed as Abraham Lincoln kills people on Independence Day. And sure, it's an outlandish idea. Because of its concept, it's billed as a horror-comedy. But it's really not very funny. And it's not just about a maniac undead killer. It has other things to say. There are several reasons why this isn't your typical horror film.
Uncle Sam is directed by William Lustig. If you don't count his three uncredited films, Lustig has directed eight movies in 36 years. He started in 1980 with the cult classic Maniac, and is also known for the Maniac Cop trilogy. This movie is the last one he's directed; he seems to be more into producing now.
As you would expect, the story is pretty bizarre. It starts with the discovery of a downed U.S. military helicopter, in which the body of Master Sergeant Sam Harper is found. The body is brought to his hometown of "Twin Rivers, USA". Sam's ex-wife doesn't want the body in her home, so her sister-in-law, Sally, reluctantly takes the coffin and leaves it in the living room. This confuses Sally's 10-year-old son, Toby.
On the eve of the 4th of July, some crazy teenagers are in a cemetery desecrating gravestones and burning American flags. When pieces of the burning flag fall into Sam's open grave, Sam bursts out of his coffin and starts killing people that offend his sense of patriotism, and people that like his ex-wife.
Themes of domestic abuse.
While the plot sound ludicrous, Lustig puts a sting into it. Jody is upset that neither his mom nor his aunt are really upset by his uncle Sam's death. He idolized his uncle. He doesn't know that Sam was a molester and abuser, and kept his wife in terror. Sam's mom and aunt are torn on whether to let Jody love a fake version of his uncle, or tell him some very harsh truths. They don't realize that Jody has been learning some lessons of his own about corrupt adults.
Themes of war violence.
The opening scene of the downed helicopter brings up the concept of friendly fire, and how that's a necessary consequence of warfare. That idea is brought up again when Jody talks about his uncle at school (apparently Twin Rivers, USA has school in July).
In addition, a major subplot revolves around Sergeant Crowley (played by the one and only Isaac Hayes). Crowley is a guilt-ridden veteran who feels ashamed of his own actions in war. He also feels bad that he also convinced Sam to join the military, because Sam didn't fight in Kuwait out of patriotism, but because he just liked to kill people.
Themes of Patriotism.
Speaking of patriotism, the movie raises questions of what counts as patriotism. Do you have to fight and kill enemies to prove your love for your country? Jody's teacher was a protester of the Vietnam War and moved to Canada because his conscience wouldn't let him participate. Is that patriotism or cowardice? Jody's uncle Sam certainly has an opinion on that.
Uncle Sam has some definite plot holes and goofy moments. But it also has some serious context behind the actions of the undead psycho patriot. The actual killing doesn't even really start until the last half of the movie. Some people may also feel uncomfortable at the way some 4th of July symbols are used in the kills. But if you think every holiday needs a horror film, then you have found the one you need for America's Birthday.
Here's the patriotic trailer.