EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, October 31, 2008

EvidenceProf Blog's 2nd Annual Halloween Movie Pick: Joe Dante's Homecoming

On the eve of the Presidential election, and with the war still being waged in Iraq, I thought that I would repost a review I wrote back in my DVD reviewing days of a very topical film by one of my favorite horror film directors, Joe Dante.


Movie zombies tend to be exaggerations of the "braindead" populace, whether they be the consumerist, Dawn of the Dead variety, flocking to the shopping mall, or the gluttonous, Return of the Living Dead  variety, on the singular quest for "brains, more brains." Joe Dante's entry in the Masters of Horror TV series, "Homecoming," turns this concept on its head, presenting us zombies who seem to have wised up in the grave, becoming (in a sense) a ridiculously idealized version of the democratic citizen, rather than man stripped down to his basest desires. In the process, Dante and writer Sam Hamm have flipped the George Romero script of the social-commentary-posing-as-horror movie and created a more overt social satire with slight horror undertones.

In "Homecoming," the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq asks a Presidential speechwriter on a Larry King Live-esque show why her son had to die when there was seemingly no threat to America. The speechwriter's response is that his one wish is that her son could come back from the dead to proclaim the necessity of the war and his pride in dying for his country. Then, as if Murch were holding a monkey's paw, dead soldiers indeed rise from their graves, weeks before the President (clearly George W. Bush) is up for re-election. Republicans rejoice and Jerry Falwell clone Luther Poole sees this as a godsend; that is, until they realize that these zombies aren't here to toe the company line but, instead, are on an unwavering quest to vote the President out of office for baselessly sending them to their deaths.

Dante is probably the ideal director for this material, having deftly crafted social satires on hot button political issues such as immigration (The Second Civil War) and war -- whose absurdities he exposed in Small Soldiers -- in the past. From The Haunting to Gremlins (and its even better sequel), Dante also deserves his moniker as a "master of horror" but, while there's the requisite zombie carnage here, the film's more like a live action version of D.C. Follies (with Dante's signature wit) than a splatterfest.

In fact, if Michael Moore wanted to make his "Will They Ever Trust Us Again?" into a movie (a la Canadian Bacon), the result might look a lot like Dante's flick, which presents and then lampoons slightly fictionalized versions of Ann Coulter and Karl Rove, who blather on with sound and fury while soldiers are sent to their deaths.

Based on the short story "Death and Suffrage" by Dale Bailey, Hamm's script isn't exactly subtle. In addition, both the cinematography and make-up are suitably low rent, and the acting is broad. In other words, this is exactly the type of B-movie you might expect from a Roger Corman disciple, although with a political focus and ideology that might attract or repel those looking for stock genre thrills.

The 58-minute film is presented in anamorphic 1.77:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and contains a spate of special features. The best of the extras include a commentary track by Hamm -- in which he points out the myriad of allusions and references in the film -- an informative 24-minute interview with Dante, a 14-minute Z Channel interview of Dante by Mick Garris, and a 22-minute featurette on Dante's career with insights provided by people as varied as Roger Corman and Corey Feldman (whom Dante directed in another comedy-horror classic, The 'burbs).

Rounding out the extras are three actor interviews, a decent 9-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a solid 30-minute script-to-screen featurette, and both Bailey's short story and Hamm's script as DVD-ROM supplements.



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