The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

ZRC Reviews: “Homecoming” from Masters of Horror

I know it’s been out quite a while, but when browsing Hulu recently I noticed that they have the whole first two seasons of Masters of Horror up, and Baron Mardi had again reminded us of the famous ‘Homecoming‘ episode of the series from legendary director Joe Dante, so we fired it up on the old Xbox via Playon the other night and… hmm.

Let’s start with the basics. Homecoming was directed by Joe Dante (famous for Gremlins amongst many other things) and is based *very* loosely on a short story called ‘Death and Suffrage’ by horror author Dale Bailey. More on that later. It starts off with two people driving furiously in a car, escaping some unknown peril, when they see a man in the road. The very loud and obnoxious female passenger grabs the wheel insisting that they swerve to hit said man, which sends them careening off the road into a ditch. Their unfortunate target is decapitated, but after the accident his head is still animate.

Yes, they ran down a Zombie in the opening.

A military truck comes up behind them as they pull themselves together out of the car, and the woman again barks instructions, this time to get firearms out of the trunk, as it has become apparent that the soldiers behind them… are also Zombies. She begins firing wildly, and might I add, with astonishing accuracy given the range, at the Zombies, all while egging them on with childish taunts. About then the man begins narrating a flashback to a short while before.

As it turns out, he is a high-powered campaign consultant named David Murch, who was working in the closing days of what they make pretty painfully clear is supposed to be GW Bush’s 2004 re-election effort. I mean, painfully clear. This episode is not subtle. In the course of doing so Murch was a guest on a Larry King style talk show with his soon-to-be female passenger, Jane Cleaver.

Let’s get this out in the open: Jane Cleaver is Ann Coulter. Period. Moreover, while Ms. Coulter is infamous for being a brash, abrasive individual with extremely conservative views, Jane Cleaver is *still* a cartoonishly exaggerated parody.

Their stint on the show justifying the Iraq war (badly) is interrupted by a video interview with a grieving mother who lost her son in said war, and Murch is moved enough by her story to make a little speech about how, if he had one wish, her son would come back…. so he could tell her, and the country, that the war was justified. This goes over about as well as you’d expect with the parent, and presumably most audience members.

However, in the show’s context, it’s what passes for sincerity in politics, and so Cleaver is deeply interested in learning how Murch faked the performance. He didn’t, as it turns out; he both believes in the war and feels for dead soldiers since his older brother apparently died in Vietnam. Cleaver then seduces him in a fairly transparent attempt to get a job within the administration. Yes, the transparent political hack job satire character of Ann Coulter beds men for power. Nice.

Then of course, the wish gets granted. Soldiers start rising from the dead all over the country… and they want to vote. Worse, they want to vote to end the war, and some of them are very chatty. Dying has made them all realize that they dislike the war intensely and that it was based on false pretenses. Murch’s boss, played by Robert Picardo, tries to get the phenomenon under control with gruesome torturous experiments on the Zombie soldiers, and when that fails, he tries to blackmail one, the lost son of the woman from the TV show, by threatening his mother.

Yes, the Bush advisor figure (Wikipedia suggests he’s like Karl Rove, but only in job function; Robert Picardo is considerably wittier than the real thing) kidnaps an old lady to try and extort a political endorsement from her Zombie son. Again, nice.

Things go downhill from there, as Murch’s conscience gets in the way and he convinces his bosses, foolishly, to take no real action against the Zombie soldiers. Let them vote, he reasons; at most they number about a thousand, spread over the whole country, it can’t move the numbers much.

Which is sound reasoning, except that their endorsement winds up almost costing the Bush-figure the election, at which point dirty tricks are employed, the vote is fixed, and a Zombie Apocalypse begins, which brings us back to the opening and an Ann Coulter-alike shooting the kneecaps off of Undead war veterans.

Believe it or not, the ending goes downhill. From there. And involves a green screen, patriotic Zombies, and an American flag backdrop. One of the Zombies has a snare drum. They’re marching.

*groans, sounds of head hitting things*

Ok, so, as you can see, the actual story isn’t just bad, it’s intolerably blunt and repetitive in its ‘I hate Republicans and particularly, really, to an almost astonishing degree of fixation, I hate Ann Coulter’ message. Or as the cool kids say, it’s Anvilicious.

The ZRC is nonpartisan and fairly apolitical beyond its core mission, but my formal training is in politics, and I have political opinions not germane to the Zombie Rights movement. I just don’t go into them here, because, and this is worth noting, adults are capable of putting things aside when they get in the way of getting work done. Telling a coherent story with meaningful characters, rather than cardboard cutouts, was sacrificed in ‘Homecoming’ in order to make fun of a marginal political figure. Yeesh.

The tragic part of all this is that the Zombies in Homecoming are portrayed in an extremely positive and uplifting manner. They served their country and come back from the dead – so they can participate, peacefully, in the public sphere by voting, by fully engaging as citizens and letting their voice be heard in an election. What’s more, people are generally ok with this, and it goes over well with the public at large.

Astonishing! Not particularly realistic, perhaps, but astonishing! At one point, Picardo’s character even goes off on an angry rant about how, being Zombies, he wishes they’d rip out someone’s throat or eat some brains so he could round them all up and get rid of his PR problem.

Zombies, refusing to cater to the worst living stereotypes, acting as good citizens. I say again, astonishingly good.

And when an election is stolen, and democracy itself is threatened? Zombies respond. Zombies are the heroes in this sorry tale. Zombies are the good guys.

It’s just a pity that they had to get their protagonist chops in such a hamfisted piece of dreck.

So Homecoming is rated ‘Zombie Friendly’ by the Zombie Rights Campaign, but I don’t actually recommend you go see it unless you have a high tolerance for shameless pandering.

The Zombies are good, but the rest? Bad.  Very bad.

I mentioned earlier that this segment is loosely adapted from a short story by Dale Bailey, ‘Death and Suffrage’. As it happens, that story is in the anthology I’m reading now, so I checked it out prior to this review. ‘Death and Suffrage’ is interesting, far more so, and far less blunt and obvious, than Homecoming. At the same time, however, it’s also not as Zombie Friendly. Zombies here aren’t individuals with their own thoughts and feelings, but rather the animated.. organs? props?… of some force of unknown intent and design, frequently remarked of as ‘inhuman’. They seem to be basically good natured, and the main character theorizes that they even want justice, of a sort, but nobody knows what that is, and they’re not at all talkative about their goals. In short, they’re less human, less personable, and less.. people. More of a force of nature, less of a group of characters.

So Death and Suffrage, a better written and crafted tale (which is absolutely devoid of Ann Coulter references) is only Zombie Neutral, edging toward Zombie Tolerant.

The story is better, but the Zombies don't come off as hot.

Now you can see the difficulties these two pieces presented for me as a reviewer for The Zombie Rights Campaign. One fairly well-written story that isn’t all that Zombie Friendly, and one badly crafted mish-mash that is very Zombie Friendly. I can’t really endorse either of them, just rate the two, note the differences, and leave things to you, the viewers/readers, and your consciences. Fortunately, I have great confidence in you all.

About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.


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