Some movies sound like they will tell a simple story that gives the audience everything they want. Uncle Peckerhead is about a punk band that are joined by a roadie that turns to a flesh eating demon every night. It sounds pretty straightforward, but the film has a lot more than it would seem. AIPT spoke with director Matt Lawrence about his comedy horror movie.
AIPT: How would you describe Uncle Peckerhead?
Matthew Lawrence: There’s a bunch of ways that I put it. I mean the easy, straightforward way is it’s a punk-rock horror comedy. But we also call it a gore fest, a madcap, music and monster movie. But yeah, I would say just like kind of a punk-rock horror comedy.
AIPT: What was the inspiration behind Uncle Peckerhead?
Lawrence: Originally, like the seedling of an idea was I wanted to make an Adult Swim series about a group of punk kids that live in this house and they’re in a band. And just inexplicably, there’s like a older hillbilly that lives with them, that kind of is this sage-like figure that gives them this advice at the end of each episode that ends up working out.
So kind of like a punk-rock Full House with a redneck Mr. Belvedere. And then what happened is that kind of just developed and morphed into a feature-length film where I took some of the basic kind of setups and some of the conflicts that are involved in the series that I was developing and just kind of like threw it into a feature-length film.
AIPT: Did you write the Southern drawl Peckerhead speaks with or did David Littleton do that on his own?
Lawrence: I mean, Peckerhead was written to be this kind of s--t-kicking kind of hillbilly. But really in terms of the voice, David gave him both the literal voice and kind of the symbolic voice, a lot of that was David. He’s an incredibly sweet, charismatic, charming person. But being able to kind of harness that. And David grew up in Houston and acts in a lot of theater. And I think right before we did the movie, he had done a play about a Southern minor, like a hillbilly minor. So I think he was able to kind of take that accent and kind of morph it a little bit. But it was written for him to be kind of this Southern kind of s--t-kicking older guy. But everything else you see is really kind of David bringing that to the character.
AIPT: You brought up some good points about him being charming and charismatic. The title might throw some people off. They might think it’s just madcap, silly monster movie like you said. But there’s a lot of tender moments in Uncle Peckerhead. Do you think that will surprise people?
Lawrence: I hope it does. And the few times we were able to kind of share the film in person with the audiences, a lot of the audience that really kind of stuck with them that there was kind of like an affection the characters have for each other. And just like in the story, like you said, there’s a heart to it.
I hope it comes as a surprise. Or I hope people recognize it. I think it’s a shame that it comes as a surprise. I’ve been asked like what films served as an inspiration for Peckerhead. And usually, aside from maybe one or two, they’re not horror films. Like one of the biggest inspirations is Wayne’s World.
It’s clear that the writer loves those characters and it’s clear those characters love one another. And that’s something that, being in film in general, I really love. And especially since you don’t see it often in horror films. Some of the films that I think really resonate with people are, even if the characters have unlikable qualities or might be on paper the antagonist.
If you can develop them, give them depth, really understand what makes them tick, and understand that the care and love they have for each other, that’s all I can hope for and I’m so glad that people are seeing that in this film.
AIPT: Were you ever afraid of taking the gore too far in Uncle Peckerhead?
Lawrence: I think my producers were. I don’t know if I would consider this part gore as much as just kind of like bad taste. But it doesn’t involve practical effects. Because I know we had probably like a month’s worth of conversations over the s--t scene. And they were really afraid that that was kind of a bridge too far.
I wanted this film to be kind of this film you would see in a packed theater, at a festival or something like that. And kind of really getting the audience to kind of hoot and holler and get into it. And I think the more you can push that in terms of not just the comedy but the gore and these situations without having it be kind of vapid or kind of just on the surface. But if you can kind of really have those moments be earned… yeah.
We’re not just trying to do like a schlocky B-movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But that we were actually trying to make a movie that kind of leveraged the gore in kind of interesting ways.
AIPT: There’s some pretty over-the-top gory moments in Uncle Peckerhead. But I would say that there’s really not that much of it, that the story is more central to the actual shock value of it. Why did you decide to go that route?
Lawrence: It’s really for two reasons. One is, I did ultimately want to have the story kind of be the centerpiece of this band, and in particular Judy, who’s willing to sell her soul, or her ambition gets the best of her and she’s willing to kind of turn a blind eye to the horrific, brutal, terrible things, in order to kind of get ahead.
But also on the other side of the coin is we were micro-budget production. And although Jared Balog, who is our effects guy, was like really helpful in being able to work with us on our budget. We really could only afford probably to do since we were doing mostly practical effects, like three or four kind of like big moments or centerpieces.
AIPT: We live in an age where there’s lots of multilayered stories. Why did you decide to go with more of a straightforward one?
Lawrence: Like I really love multilayered stories. I think we just didn’t have the time to kind of develop it any further because we kind of set a date of when we were going to shoot it. And as the script was being developed, I felt that the most important story to tell would be Judy’s. And in earlier drafts, we would kind of follow Mel a little bit more, follow Max. And I felt that kind of muddied it and it also added it to our shoot days and stuff like that.
So I think just making it a more straight forward story helped me as a director that doesn’t have a lot of feature experience under his belt. Kind of really being able to kind of develop and flesh out really Judy’s story, or you could say DUH, the band story. I mean really, it’s not that I would love to and I have scripts that are much larger in scope or kind of take on a little bit more, kind of tell multiple narratives. But I think just in terms of, again, limitations on a micro budget and limitations in terms of the time you have to develop a script, yeah, I mean that kind of dictated the approach with the story.
AIPT: What future projects are you working on?
Lawrence: I have a film, a feature-length idea, called Larry Gone Demon, which takes kind of a basic concept from a short film that I made but puts it the DUH universe. So it’s a lot of the same characters, a lot of the same like energy and ideas. But just really through a different story altogether.
And then I have a few other projects that I’m developing. All of which are I would consider to be horror comedy, maybe a little bit more comedic, more of a comedic bent. But I would encourage anybody to check out our production website called subtletrex.com and you can read about a few of our upcoming projects. We have a lot of kind of visuals to help aid in being able to see what we have in store.