Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Masters of Horror: "Homecoming" review


"All horror films are political."--Joe Dante

There has been a lot of blogging on this film--none of it matters. What matters is the reality and the truth that this horror-short conveys about our present national-nightmare. People should keep-in-mind that Joe Dante is not known as a political-director, though you could find the subtext in many of his films. But, you'd have to look pretty-deeply. Certainly, "Gremlins" is a criticism of American-consumerism and just how ill-behaved we are as a culture (then-and-now), and surely "The Howling" takes a few jabs at the sexual-revolution--but if-anything, Joe Dante has been known as a director of genre-films, and a damned fine one. He is also noteworthy for his championing of genre-history, and has helped save several films (classics) from oblivion. It's safe to say that Joe Dante is probably one-of horror's best-friends of the last 40-years, period. As he and writer Sam Hamm (scribe of 1988's "Batman") state on the excellent Anchor Bay DVD: this is propaganda, and it is biased towards the Left.

So after-that, there isn't much left to say once a writer and director have made their intentions dramatically-clear. After-that, criticizing the message is just illustrating your own predjudices and bias, which nobody cares-about. It's not controversial to say that Iraq and the entire Middle East is in a mess that should have been avoided. This basic-truth is very difficult to locate in our mainstream-media, it is taboo to acknowledge it. Consider-this: how-many stories like this really get-made in horror nowadays? Actor Robert Picardo--a Republican--states in his interview-featurette that he came to the project partly because he was deeply-concerned that the debate is being limited in this country's media, and that it alarmed him. Yes, this is coming-from a Republican actor. Even Grover Norquist--the ideological-architect of our current-disaster--has stated he is concerned that things have "gone-too-far", and worries that the Democratic Party won't "reign-in the excesses" of the GOP and the Bush administration. What makes "Homecoming" so important is how rare projects like this are. There is no "liberal media-bias", and no Santa Claus either, or films like this would be everywhere. Only an idiot would deny this, and we now know who idiots vote-for now.

The story begins much like our daily-lives: with television "bobble-heads" telling us the daily-lies (and leaving-out more). The main-protagonist David Murch (played with restraint by the excellent Jon Tenney) is a Right-wing pundit and former Presidential speechwriter. While usually representing the "more-moderate" side of the GOP's talking-points, Murch is really a decoy for political talk-shows to Jane Cleaver's far-right comments. This is actually how the media works now: rarely have any genuine people from other political-viewpoints (never-mind a left-leaning one) in the corporate-owned media, and just have two right-wing viewpoints debating. It's all-about narrowing the debate. Enter characters like Jane Cleaver and David Murch. Canadian-actress Thea Gill does an incredible-performance as Cleaver--clearly, she's modeled-after Ann Coulter, though there are other talking-necks who would fit-the-bill. Ironically, the writer and director toned-down the rhetoric of the character from the real-life ones. I honestly found most of the story and scenes very-scary, because they are such familiar North American-settings. This is about our lives, not somebody living-on-Mars, obviously. People are dying. If you don't find this scary, you're probably already dead-inside. Pundit-Murch is put-on-the-spot by a Gold Star mother of a soldier killed in an unpopular-war on a talk-program, and he tells her he wished her son could "come-back" to tell everyone that his sacrifice was worthwhile. Be careful what you wish-for.

Before-long, even the President is mouthing Murch's talking-point, again-and-again, and before-long they get their wish. All the dead-soldiers from the conflict who feel betrayed return, becoming an embarrassment to the GOP and their bobble-heads. Murch is eventually summoned by Kurt Rand (played with vigor and hilarity by the superb Rob Picardo), the guy who makes most of the P.R. and policy-decisions for the President. Some have said that this character is modeled-after Karl Rove, which is true. However, I thought Picardo also bore some resemblance to Vice President Dick Cheney. Check the scene in-which Murch is shown one of the early-returners--the zombie does the usual "grrrrr!", and Picardo returns-in-kind. That's pure-Cheney ("Go fuck-yourself!"). Like the neocons, these are people who don't even care about the suffering of the damned. Shockingly, it becomes-clear that the dead-soldiers merely want to vote. Of course, there's a catch to this: they want to vote-against the criminals who made them "die for a lie". This powerful-moment depicts a zombie-soldier telling the press at a politcal-gathering, "We'll vote for anyone who ends this evil war." It's a real moment of catharsis for anyone who has watched the Iraq war with a healthy-dose of skepticism.

It's sad that fictional-characters have to say this before the politicians, but that's politics. Also moving, was the scene of the dead-soldier being comforted by the black-couple. It made me think of all the lives that have been abused and thrown-away by the Bush administration--though Bush and company are hardly-alone in their guilt. Yes, the Democratic Party got us into our present-quagmire, where young-men and women die for a lie they knew was a lie from-the-start. This is a basic-truth. Their abscence in "Homecoming" is their abscence as a viable opposition-party to the GOP, and the film can be viewed as an Capraesque call to patriotic-duty. But, forgetting all that, it is just a very entertaining and audacious political-satire.You see, this is a story of OUR guilt. We are all-guilty, and if we don't heed the warnings, we'll suffer horribly for it later. When the dead-soldiers vote (then die), it's made-clear the election was stolen (just like in real-life), and the dead from all American-conflicts rise from their graves.

Dante and Hamm make-it-plain that the criminals who stole those elections have betrayed the sacrifices of generations of Americans who gave their lives, sincerely, for their country, and for democracy. What is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon is shameful, and it all dishonors the sacrifices made by all American troops. By ending this evil war and jailing this criminal administration and Congress, we do them and ourselves right by acting. My family has given all the way back to the American Revolution, what have you done for democracy today? We're all guilty, like the villians from the darkest EC comic...THEY'RE COMING FOR YOU. THEY'RE COMING TO DRAFT-YOU, BARBARA.

PS: It is scary, because it is real. Check the pulse. They stole that too? Catch the Masters of Horror series on Showtime, and be sure to check-out the DVDs that are getting a quality-release from Anchor Bay, these are the allegories of our times. Horror is a political-genre.