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UNCLE SAM (1997)

Directed by William Lustig

Starring Isaac Hayes and Timothy Bottoms

Marking the decline of horror great Larry Cohen, who went from classic horror satires like "It's Alive" and "The Stuff" to pretty bad crap like the "Maniac Cop" series, 1997's "Uncle Sam" attempts for some of the political edge that Cohen's earlier films exhibited. It succeeds, somewhat, but without Cohen in the director's chair the film is a mixed bag.

Directed by William Lustig (of "Maniac Cop" and "Maniac" fame) and written by Cohen, "Sam" chronicles the adventures of a deceased Persian Gulf War veteran comes back to life as a zombie that targets non-patriots in his small hometown. Victims include a tax dodger, war protester and other antisocial types. The killings frequently involve flags: Death by flagpole stabbing, getting hanged on a flagpole, murder by fireworks, etc. Two future South Park alums are involved: Isaac Hayes shows up as a Korean War vet and Timothy Bottoms (later of Trey Parker's "That's My Bush" series) plays a schoolteacher.

Movies in general don't get much worse than this. "Uncle Sam" enjoys a small following because some people believe it's so bad it's funny. Crafted for Blockbuster, it doesn't have the edge of Lustig's "Maniac" or any of Cohen's great (or even not-so-great) movies. Looking for some kind of holiday theme to latch onto (a la "Halloween," "Black Christmas" or "My Bloody Valentine"), the July 4 connection of "Uncle Sam" seems pretty forced as if the makers were really just attempting to juice a formula. But if you're looking for a bad movie to get drunk with and laugh at during the Fourth of July, this might be fun. Just be prepared for the flick's frequent slow moments.

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