There are bad zombie movies, and then there are movies that are so bad they transcend logical thinking and leave you to wondering how enough people thought it was a good idea to get it made. In this case I bring you Masters of Horror: Joe Dante – Homecoming.
I was pretty excited when I had the opportunity to see this, as Joe Dante is an actor I really enjoy watching and he has made a few great movies if you look them up. But once again we end up with a zombie movie that had the right ingredients but fell to pieces.
It becomes clear almost immediately that the movie was going for the cheapest cliché in undead movies by going with the overused comedy angle, which fails in this case to be even mildly amusing. Comedy can be done right in these movies but more often than not we see it miss the mark over and over again.
The movie is based around the idea that, if soldiers who died in the Middle East wars could come back to life, they become anti-war zombies who only want to vote. Immediately I take issue with this. To me this reeks of putting words in a dead soldier’s mouth, quite literally in this case. I find this just as disrespectful as those cretins who protest at soldiers’ funerals. It’s offensive, arrogant, and a bit staggering to see used to both support and protest the war. Put simply, one does not have to support the war to respect the soldiers who have served and died in combat.
There is no virus or apocalypse to speak of; I assume wanting the war to stop is what caused these fallen soldiers to rise again. These peaceful zombies don’t even really crave human flesh, unless the victim is a Republican of course. One of the first things that happens in the movie, after everyone discovers the dead soldiers are rising again, is a zombie showing up on TV in full uniform speaking against the war and lecturing George Bush and his cabinet ,with a crowd of healthy humans behind them cheering him on. Right here, at damn near the beginning of the film, the movie completely derails. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we need wall to wall violence for a zombie movie to be good, but the simple fact is that zombies eat people. If a zombie is next to a crowd of the living, it should be tearing them apart. A zombie should be horrifying in the extreme and not a possible guest on a political talk show.
Homecoming is not a zombie movie, or anything even resembling to a horror movie. Nothing scary happens; this movie is an abstract political soap box rant. Homecoming does little more than mock the right-wing politicians and the media that sides with them in a rather boorish and immature manner. I have no problem with someone using their art to make a point in politics, or to speak against the war. In fact I think it’s important to do so instead of simply making a movie for profit. My problem with the stance used it that it isn’t made in a respectful or useful way. It’s simply crammed into every moment possible with as much subtlety as a screaming child at a store once he has been denied a toy.
If Dante wanted to make an antiwar movie using soldiers, that is perfectly fine, but it didn’t have to be done with such disrespect or forcefulness. The best way to change the mind or make the audience realize something is to give them the opportunity to come to a conclusion themselves and not force it upon them.
In Saving Private Ryan, Cpt. Miller sits down by himself after that breathtaking open and starts to weep with shaking hands. That certainly got the point across to how horrible war is to anyone who was just cheering at how awesome the opening action was. A more recent example is the HBO mini-series Generation Kill. In episode one everyone is gung-ho, ready for war, boiling with excited energy, and ready to kill as many enemy as possible. Fast forward to the last episode and Cpl. Person is showing a video montage of all the action he has filmed throughout his tour. One by one the marines walk away without saying a word, no longer finding anything funny or interesting about war. Of course neither one of these movies are anti-war, but both parts were subtle and got across a very powerful message without insulting the viewers and more importantly allowing those that served their country to maintain their dignity. Again, my main issue lies with having dead soldiers rising as zombies and putting political words in their mouth. Trivializing war in a political zombie comedy just doesn’t make sense.
I was promised a zombie movie, and instead got a disjointed political rant. A true bait and switch that leads me to believe Joe Dante had an idea for a political movie and used the first chance he got to use the message, whether it made sense or not. In the process he failed so completely at delivering the message that he made his side of the argument seem petty and childish.
Whatever Dante was trying to say in Homecoming, using dead soldiers was not the right way to do it. Perhaps a thoughtful documentary interviewing injured soldiers or those in post combat would have served a much more impactful purpose. The message I got from this this movie was that Republicans can rig the election with one phone call, Republicans make fun of dead soldiers, and soldiers from every war would think their lives were uselessly wasted with no purpose if they could talk about it.
One last thing. The movie ends with two zombies marching playing a drum and one playing a flute with a flag waving behind them. Yeah.