Masters of Horror: Homecoming

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When political consultant David Murch wished that the dead soldiers killed in America’s most recent conflict could come back to life, the last thing he expected was for his wish to come true. Part of the Masters of Horror anthology series by Mick Garris.

One thing I always try to do whenever I’m reviewing something is to keep my personal politics out of said review. After all, I’m here to review books, movies, games, television, and any other forms of media that relates, sometimes tenuously, to horror and zombies, as well as giving you living meatsacks a little bit of insight as to what it’s like to be a zombie, not to preach to you or use my site as a soapbox for political arguments. Sure, I don’t always succeed, every now and again my personal politics slip through into a review despite my attempts otherwise. I guess it’s just human, or zombie, nature. Still, I try my hardest to keep things fun and mostly impersonal. If you were looking to read up on political arguments or the like, you’d be cruising a site far different than mine, but every now and then, something I read, or watch, or play will have a massive political commentary. This is the case with the Masters of Horror episode from Joe Dante entitled Homecoming, an episode that uses zombies to take a hard look at something that was a huge issue, not just here in America, but around the world. That event was the Iraq War, otherwise known by the terrible name, Operation Freedom. Homecoming is so based in the politics of the time that doing a simple review might be somewhat difficult. I can promise you I won’t be calling out any particular politician, nor harping on Republicans or Democrats, they’re both just two sides of the same coin to me, but there’s bound to be a little bit of my personal feelings coming through, especially since it’s dealing with something that’s close to my heart. I tell you this now because I know most people are sick of hearing about this stuff, and if you’re here, I’m sure it’s just to read a review or two, so no hard feeling if you want to continue on to a different article. I’ll completely understand. That being said, let’s get on with the review.

America is embroiled in a foreign conflict in Iraq that many Americans disagree with, jeopardizing the reelection of a president (seemingly modeled on George W. Bush) whose previous term has been highly intertwined with said conflict. To combat the bad press, political consultant David Murch goes on talk show Marty Clark Live to defend the man signing his paychecks. His pandering hits an obstacle when political activist Janet Hofstader, a woman who lost her own son to the war and seemed based off of real life activist Cindy Sheehan, calls in to question Murch herself. His response is to tear up and wish that every soldier killed could come back to life so that they could tell the world how proud they are to have died for their country. Whether his tears are genuine, Murch claims his emotional reaction is due to the death of his older brother during the Vietnam War, doesn’t much matter, what does matter is that his wish comes true. The soldiers killed in Iraq begin coming back from death, wandering the streets of America awaiting their opportunity to voice their opinions, only those opinions might not be what David Murch was hoping. This matters little to the powers that be as they struggle to spin their web of deceit in order to trick the public. When outright lies fail, these powers have no problem with manipulation and underhanded trickery, but the dead won’t stand for any of it, and the government’s lack of shame could have dire consequences for the whole country.

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{Hard to be afraid of much when you’ve already been shot in the head}

Homecoming is based on the short story Death and Suffrage by Dale Bailey, a story I had never read prior to seeing this episode of Masters of Horror. Having now read it, I can say that the two are fairly similar, with only a few differences. Whereas the short story is more about gun control with the dead deciding to flex their collective, rotting muscles, the episode is about underhanded politics, the pointlessness of political news programs, and the waste of life that is war…with the dead deciding to flex their collective, rotting muscles. It’s not hard to see the similarities between Homecoming and America circa 2005, nor is it hard to tell where this story is coming from. The Iraq War/Occupation, groups trying to sell the public on a war (both from political consultants and talking head idiots from news channels), and various characters that were reminiscent of important figures of the time like George Bush (he’s never stated as the president but he sounds exactly like Bush and a license plate says Bushgirl at one point), Cindy Sheehan (named Janet Hofstader here), and a woman who seemed very much like Ann Coulter (here named Jane Cleaver, David Murch’s protégé and sexual interest). What I loved though was that despite it being about that time in America’s recent past (though not much in the past when this was released), Homecoming doesn’t spend it’s time blaming one side of the political spectrum or the other, instead focusing on its message about the horrors of war and the twisted ways those in power will do anything to get what they want.

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{Got to love the little references hidden throughout as well}

My favorite thing about this episode is how it makes sure to let the audience know that this isn’t an attack on the soldiers that America sent over to Iraq, it’s an attack on the government that didn’t place enough value on their lives. In fact, these soldiers are the heart of the film, as it’s their face, the face of dead soldiers, that is the true face of war. There is a scene about halfway through the episode where a resurrected soldier is wandering down the street on a rainy night, lonely, cold, and scared, when he comes across a diner whose owners bring him inside despite how fearful people are about the resurrected dead, offering him comfort and, more importantly, kindness. It was an extremely touching scene, and I feel no shame in admitting that I nearly shed a tear myself, probably would have were my tear ducts still functioning. I can remember a lot of people back then complaining about the soldiers instead of the powers behind shipping those soldiers out, so it was nice to see something so critical of the Iraq War place blame where blame was due.

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{Notice the two not strapped down are still among the living}

There’s also a decent amount of commentary on the way groups will try to sell the public on ideas, from the government twisting/making up facts that support their cause to news channels/programs placing a spin that puts their specific political leanings in a positive light. Both are done extremely well with the government shown to be as underhanded as ever, specifically the people behind the scenes who are better set up to manipulate the public, going to any lengths necessary to garner the results their looking for, and the news channels being nothing but a useless group of talking heads that will flip flop on issues depending on exactly how they need to spin their message. Political spin is a big part of Homecoming.

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{Cable news, the most useless thing on television}

On top of the social commentary, we also get some great performances from a cast that seems like they could have easily walked off of a real life political stage, and some awesome makeup from the undead soldiers. Masters of Horror was an amazing series, and Homecoming might just have been one of the best episodes on the show. If you’re looking for a place to start on the series, then this might just be it.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling)

Starring: Thea Gill (Papertrail, Ice Men), Jon Tenny (Legion, The Stepfather {2009}), and Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager, Gremlins 2)

Written By: Dale Bailey (original short story), Sam Hamm (Monkeybone, M.A.N.T.I.S.), and Mick Garris (Desperation, Riding the Bullet)

Released By: IDT Entertainment, Showtime Networks, and Anchor Bay Entertainment

Release Year: 2005

Release Type: Television Show

Channel: Showtime

Rating: TVMA

Rotten Heads: Five Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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