Friday, December 02, 2005

Zombies Protest War

I don’t usually watch horror movies, but I might make an exception for this one, following TayTay’s recommendation at Democratic Underground:

All is quiet at Dover Air Force Base. Inside a cavernous hangar, carefully hidden from view, are rows and rows of metal boxes, their flag-draped shapes stretching into the distance. Two soldiers stand guard, exchanging idle chatter, when a report crackles over the radio—another pesky reporter, trying to snap photos of the dead. One soldier goes to investigate, and the other is left alone. Suddenly, a sound echoes through the emptiness, and the boxes begin to stir, first one and then dozens. The coffins collapse, sliding to the floor, and the red, white and blue shrouds lift off their slabs, sliding away to reveal the bodies of American soldiers killed in Iraq. They’re back, and they have a few questions to ask.

Premiering on Showtime this weekend as part of the Masters of Horror series, Homecoming is slotted among morbid ghost stories and serial-killer chillers. But the hourlong episode, directed by Joe Dante, is frightening in ways that have nothing to do with the supernatural. The zombie soldiers turn out to be a polite, nonviolent (if somewhat smelly) lot; those with vocal chords are even well-spoken. The true monsters are at least nominally human: Jon Tenney’s presidential speechwriter, Thea Gill’s buxom pundit and Robert Picardo’s opportunistic aide, who can’t help but wonder if these undead soldiers might be convinced to re-enlist. Next to them, a few ambulatory corpses don’t seem so scary after all.

“Horror movies are basically a subversive genre,” Dante says. “It’s part of their appeal. Usually the message is encoded or in symbols, but since we only had an hour to tell the story, we sort of dispensed with the symbols.” Indeed, you’d have to be brain-dead to miss the resemblance between Picardo’s Kurt Rand and the real Karl Rove, or Gill’s Jane Cleaver and a certain self-styled neocon sexpot. (At least on the record, Dante denies the latter, perhaps because the character is a promiscuous dominatrix whom the speechwriter’s mother describes as “what we used to call a skank.”) There’s even a Cindy Sheehan figure, although Dante says the script was written before Sheehan’s emergence on the national stage. The president remains offscreen, but the Texas twang is unmistakable, as is this description of his appeal: “He makes stupid people feel they’re just as smart as he is.”


Anonymous Finnegen said...

I see from some stills the movie ripped off K/E signs.

2:12 PM  

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