A few weeks ago I was lounging with my significant other, binge watching netflix, when she asked: “A friend of mine is in a zombie movie, do you want to see the trailer?” Being a fan of the sub-genre, I was naturally intrigued. So I tapped the play button on a video titled “My Uncle John is a Zombie trailer” Approximately one nanosecond into the preview I immediately recognized the face of Mr. John Russo, famous screenwriter of such classics as Night of the Living Dead, The Return of the Living Dead, and Midnight. My response was simple “how well do you know this friend?” As luck would have it they were very close acquaintances, and I got to work arranging a screening.
My Uncle John is a Zombie is a mockumentary that explores a world where people have learned to live with the undead. In a hilarious parody of the 24 hour news cycle, constant coverage of these creatures punctuates the trials and tribulations of Uncle John (John Russo), the only zombie in existence that can speak and reason. As you can imagine there are plenty of hazards for a coherent zombie such as hunters, the police, and the catholic church, but with the help of his niece and nephew our title character has managed to survive.
Those faithful family members are played by Cy-Fi as herself, and Gary Lee Vincent as Oscar. These two characters help to create a dynamic story, with Cy-Fi utilizing her uncle’s special talent to promote him to a level of superstardom, and Oscar providing inept but ultimately effective security.
CCH: Cy-Fi I understand this was your first role. How did you get involved with the project.
Cy-Fi: John Russo and i met through my work at horror and comic conventions. We became friends over time and when I would get offered parts in different independent films, i would reply that the only way I'd get into acting was for John Russo. One day we were talking about projects and he asked me to be involved with My Uncle John Is A Zombie. Of course I agreed, he's a genius & My Uncle John Is A Zombie s sounded like such a fun project (*spoiler* it was a lot of fun to shoot). Now he has to put up with me calling him "Unkie John" all the time.
While this may have been her freshman entry into the world of acting, Cy-Fi’s wit and confidence bleeds from the screen with a flow and rate similar to that of a drunk hemophiliac with a gunshot wound.
CCH: Gary I've spoken to you briefly and in that short conversation you struck me as extremely intelligent. Did you find it difficult to play a character who was, to put it lightly, bumbling?
Gary: I have always enjoyed comedy and part of the challenge of comedy is doing something that is likeable and, most importantly, funny. Playing Oscar was a real joy because I didn't have to be so serious and it afforded me a way to explore some other aspects of my personality. I worked a LOT behind the scenes in pre-production in a very serious capacity, so when it came time to get in FRONT of the camera, I welcomed the challenge and found it rewarding to be a goofball for a change.
Gary (Oscar) who was also one of the producers of the film quickly became one of my favorite characters. His country bumpkin persona is a welcome presence amongst the rest of the cast. Providing an additional layer of levity amongst dark satire.
The soundtrack in this film is extremely effective and eclectic. At times hard hitting rock and roll, at others Doo-Wop and ballads. Mr. Russo who is also a songwriter, wrote the lyrics to “Beat em Burn em” a song featured in both versions of the trailer. I was singing this track for days afterwards. The music is definitely a high point, and i can see the soundtrack selling very well when it is released
The cameos in My Uncle John is a Zombie are a real treat for Living Dead fans. For instance Russell Streiner, who played Johnny in Night of the Living Dead, returns to the screen as a Reverend Hotchkiss. His character is a believable result of a zombie outbreak, angered by the acceptance of the undead into culture. Sound familiar? The late George Kosana reprises his NOTLD role as Sheriff McClelland, while I don’t want to give anything away about his scenes, they were among the most funny in the film. After we finished the screening I informed Mr. Russo that I had described George’s character in NOTLD as the most Pittsburgh aspect of the movie. He was not surprised informing me that Kosana had infact been a steel mill worker.
For the time being, you can only catch My Uncle John is a Zombie at select theater screenings, however I’m positive it will be picked up at some point by an online VOD or streaming service. When this time comes, you’ll want to make sure you put it on your watch list. My Uncle John is a Zombie proved to be not only hilarious, but it was one of the few accurate accounts of how I believe an actual undead outbreak would transpire. It wouldn’t be the “end of times” in the United States but rather just another way to profit. Kudos to Mr. Russo, by mixing light humor with a highbrow message he has created a horror-comedy that has cultural relevance. If Shaun of the Dead and Citizen Kane had a baby it would be My Uncle John is a Zombie