I spoke in my first Impressions of a Masters of Horror shortly about the series overall. A brief overview, it was a series that ran for two seasons on Showtime. Each entry was a horror short given to us by a “master of horror” director. They are entirely standalone, but there were a few common threads, as I said in the last piece. Two of those that can be found in full in this episode are the melodrama and being of the times.
Homecoming was from season one and was directed by Joe Dante (The Howling, The ‘Burbs) and carries with it something that Dante has done before, horror-comedy. The episode opens with two Republican talking heads discussing the war in the build-up to the next presidential election. Yes, the war in Iraq, and Bush’s running for a second term (although never explicitly named). The two are confronted by the war being based on a lie, and our main character, David, saying that he wished all the soldiers could come home and that he knows they would thank the President for the chance to fight for the country. The sentiment lands well, and the President decides to take the talking point.
Days later, exactly what David wished for happened, the soldiers began to rise up. Although the end results are not entirely what’s expected. Yes, they will be violent, especially when attacked, but it’s not their default mode. They are also nearly impossible to kill, as we expect from zombies. However, they can speak, retain their memories, and seem to just want to either go home to their families or participate in the political process.
-yes, it’s a little much, but we will get there later-
Not only that, but David is confronted with the fact that they aren’t “grateful” to have died for this war, and even more so confronted by how dismissive his own party is of who these people are and what they gave. The episode plays out in a lot of interesting ways with a lot of emotional moments, including how the “zombies” interact with people based on how they are treated. There is a rather touching scene with one of them ending up in a cafe because the owners are worried about him being out in the rain and bond over him trying to find his mother, while they miss their own son. Touching stuff.
The humor element is naturally dark but not as heavy as I expected based on how much people define this as a dark comedy. David’s relationship with Jane (Ann Coulter basically) and the extravagant way in which all the Republicans are represented are where most of it comes from. Outside of that, it’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek over-the-top patriotism with more emotional moments than funny ones.
It becomes a bit of a hard episode for me to settle on how I feel about it. I like satire; I just feel sometimes the problem is it can be a bit too on the nose, and boy is this episode ever that. I feel like there could have been potential to have it not be a literal spoof of Bush and the war in Iraq but maybe touch on something else or be a little more subtle about it. The episode decided to go for it, though, and you basically know exactly who everybody is. As someone who was alive during that time, it is interesting to watch this movie and reflect on what it was like building up to that election. However, as someone who is alive now, it’s also shocking to see that these characters that are meant to be a little excessive are frankly right on point for where we are now.
However, for something so intent on calling out Bush and the lie of Iraq, the rest of the movie is a bit propaganda-heavy. For instance, they question why no other soldiers are rising up, and the answer is none of them need to basically, as though Iraq is the only war we needlessly lied our way into and called for sacrifices that frankly were not needed. Not to get too political, but are you kidding me? Also, that they literally are rising up to get the chance to vote (then will die again) is an interesting plot point, but not as heavily played for laughs as I would have done. It’s a bit much to say they are really coming back just to cast a vote.
Yet despite that, I do still enjoy it, mostly. I think it is an interesting time capsule almost, of a time in America where we were still reeling from 9/11 and all that followed after. A lot of people had not fully confronted that people lied us into Iraq using our emotion from 9/11, and this episode really does make a point to remind the viewer that this was a bad thing that was done in the wake of something else. It is also entertaining, if not, as I said, a little much at times.
I also appreciate any attempt to do something fresh with zombies, which this does. For the most part, they are not zombies, just undead beings that are happy to live in the world, do what they feel they must, and only attack those that harm them. It’s pretty standard in horror to ask, “who’s the real monster,” but this episode does it in a compelling way.
Bottom line? This episode will probably be polarizing as hell. It was one of the least horror episodes, and it’s going to trigger different responses from people based on their political leanings. The story gets a bit messy, and it’s light on both horror and comedy. However, again, looking at it for when it came out, it’s pretty damn interesting, especially if you were alive at that time. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I recommend it, but I don’t not recommend it either? If you are watching the series, give it a go, if you are curious about how it handles Iraq same. If you are just looking for a zombie flick, probably put this a bit lower on the list.