Movie Review: The Uh-Oh Show
(This film was sent to the Underground Film Journal as a screener copy from the 2010 Spooky Movie Film Festival, which runs Oct. 21-25.)
When Herschell Gordon Lewis invented the splatter movie back in 1963 with the film Blood Feast, it was a dour, humorless affair with one of the least fearsome movie murderers of all time. Now, nearly 50 years later and a long absence from the genre he pioneered, Lewis has reinvented himself as a more genteel version of Lloyd Kaufman for his latest endeavor The Uh-Oh Show. Which is fitting since Kaufman does cameo in the film as a pimp.
The Uh-Oh Show is a bit of a hodgepodge: Part social satire, part gross-out fest, part straight-up comedy, part fairy tale. None of it quite gels together, but what it lacks in cohesion is made up in sheer exuberance, which is especially evident in the director’s own face when he cameos as the film’s introductory storyteller, terrorizing children with severed limbs and decapitated heads. At 81, it’s refreshing to see someone still so devoted to stirring shit up and being confrontational — all with a big, infectious grin on his mug.
From Blood Feast to The Uh-Oh Show, Lewis’ work has been predicated on giving the audience what it wants, whether that audience has asked if they want it or not. He’s like the Roman emperor at the Coliseum who doesn’t wait for the thumbs up or thumbs down approval from the audience. For Lewis, it’s a constant thumbs up. Off with their heads and the more blood that spews the better.
So, in that regard, The Uh-Oh Show has a strong — if loopy and nonsensical — premise. Within the film there’s an actual “Uh-Oh Show,” a late night cable game show in which contestants answer easy questions to win enormous prizes — millions of dollars in cash, new cars, paradise vacations. But, when they’re asked impossible to answer questions, they’re strapped to a table and have their body parts hacked off by Radial Saw Rex, a maniacal African-American who wields the power tool he’s named after.
The show claims that the death and dismemberment are just special effects and that the contestants run off with their millions to their vacation getaways. But, of course, the unwitting victims are actually killed in front of an unsuspecting studio audience.
No, none of it makes much sense, but the energy is high and although the violence is in the realm of the cartoonish, the actual effects are good and grotesque.
The plot then kicks into high gear when investigative TV reporter Jill Burton’s (Nevada Caldwell) boyfriend appears on the “Uh-Oh Show” against her wishes and is summarily executed.
As Jill seeks to prove that “Uh-Oh” is murdering contestants, the producers of the show have been tapped by the network to come up with a prime-time spinoff, a violent re-working of classic Grimm fairy tales. (And no, how a fairy tale show is a good spinoff from a game show isn’t at all addressed.)
Meanwhile, “Uh-Oh’s” host, Jackie (Brooke McCarter), is fed up with working in a charnel house, but his life is threatened if he ever attempts to leave the show.
The actual horror in the film is more Scooby-Doo than Texas Chain Saw Massacre — despite the inclusion of a radial saw wielding character. So, perhaps sensing that the film was bordering on the verge of children’s entertainment, in addition to the graphic gore, Lewis tosses in loads of thoroughly inappropriate scatological humor to spice things up.
In the oddest and most out of place aspects of the film, Jill’s cameraman Oscar (Kenny Rogers) is an African-American man obsessed with deviant sex with white women. Also, the network honchos who are expecting big returns for their primetime fairy tale splatter-fest, are portrayed as a trio of Middle Eastern Arabs wearing full Saudi Ghutra. Between those two characterizations plus the big black radial saw-wielding maniac, The Uh-Oh Show doesn’t do much for modern race relations.
Other gags include a character dressing up like a giant condom and roaming around park where clearly there are unaware families in the background trying to have a nice day. Then, Troma head Lloyd Kaufman cameos as a pimp berating his gang of unattractive prostitutes in a scene that goes on for so long, you start to forget which movie you’re watching.
That’s a lot of stuff to throw at the wall to see what sticks. However, there’s a good manic, but not overblown, energy coursing through The Uh-Oh Show that keeps it buoyant throughout. Even with the social satire, it’s tough to figure out what Lewis is really trying to say other than that he’s still here trying to gross us out but good. In his own indomitable way, the man’s still got it.
Watch The Uh-Oh Show underground movie trailer: