Homecoming (2005) 1 brain1 brain1 brain

Showtime decided to do a series called Masters of Horror, where noted horror directors got to do whatever they wanted for 1 hour. Joe Dante, director of The Howling, was one of those, and the result was Homecoming.

Sometimes directors use symbolism to make a statement, but Dante wanted to be more direct. He took a current political situation, namely, the Iraq war and the administration responsible for it, and just changed or removed the names. The story is about a right-wing spin man working for a folksy Republican president, trying to put a positive light on a war in an unnamed country overseas that is claiming the lives of our soldiers. You can probably guess that this fictional president and his staff don't come out looking good.

If you're looking for a traditional zombie film, keep looking. These zombies aren't coming back to feed on human flesh; they have an agenda of their own. The story starts three weeks before a presidential election, in which the incumbent is seeking a second term. The spin man, David Murch (Jon Tenney), is on a political talk show speaking to the distraught mother of a soldier who has been killed. He makes a wish that her son could come back and tell everyone how important the war is. Shortly thereafter, soldiers do indeed start coming back.

Murch and the president's other political advisors, led by Kurt Rand (in a great performance by Robert Picardo), are convinced that the soldiers have come back to life to show their support for the war, being proud to have been killed in the service of their country. Rand also starts a research program to see if the returned zombies can be formed into a new, indestructible army. He has no empathy for the undead soldiers, and one gets the feeling that he doesn't really have much empathy for the live ones, either.

The reaction of the rest of the public varies. Many are horrified, not because the zombies are attacking anyone (they aren't), but because the people don't want to see what the war has done. They don't want to be reminded that young men and women are coming home in boxes, pale and cold. Other people take pity on the soldiers, being reminded of loved ones still fighting. It soon becomes clear, however, that the soldiers have not come back to support the war, but to stop it. As the president's staff scrambles to do PR damage control, Murch begins to question whether he's doing the right thing.

As a movie, it's well done. Political message aside, it's humorous and macabre, with good acting and effects all around. However, Dante makes no bones about his political persuasion, so if a heavy-handed liberal stance will annoy you, best to avoid this movie.