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  Masters of Horror: Homecoming When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Year: 2005
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Jon Tenney, Thea Gill, Wanda Cannon, Terry David Mulligan, Robert Picardo, Beverley Breuer
Genre: Horror, TV SeriesBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Political representatives in the media David Murch (Jon Tenney) and Jane Cleaver (Thea Gill) are speeding down a country road in the middle of the night when Jane spots a figure stumbling along the road up ahead. She grabs the wheel, shouting that it's "one of them" and David is powerless to prevent the car ploughing into the man, and crashing the vehicle into a ditch. The couple are woken from their daze to see the man's severed head mumbling on the windscreen - Jane was right, it was one of the undead, brought back to life to carry out a mission. They flee the car and wander into the road where they see a military truck approaching, but it stops and before Jane can ask for a lift some soldiers emerge and start shambling towards them. She knows what to do, orders David to open the back of the car and grabs a shotgun and cartridges whereupon she begins shooting the undead down... but for David it's all too much.

Director Joe Dante's entry into the Masters of Horror television series was the most overtly political of the lot. Scripted by Sam Hamm from Dale Bailey's story "Death and Suffrage", it sets out an explicitly anti-war stance from early on, just after the prologue in fact, by making its villains not the returning zombies but the right wingers of America who have sent the soldiers off to war, only for them to return in coffins. It all seems to begin because of David's near-breakdown in tears on a live television interview when he's talking about his brother who died in the Vietnam conflict during the 1970s where he says if he had one wish, it's that his brother could come back to life. This is great publicity for the right wingers, showing a compassionate and patriotic side (Republicans and Democrats are never spoken of by name for some reason) and the President adopts it as part of an inspirational speech.

The old adage about being careful what you wish for holds true here, as we see in a scene that stages recently killed soldiers (presumably in Iraq or Afghanistan, although they are never named either) break out of their coffins and start walking around. At first nobody is sure why, and David and Jane (the episode's real monster) put a positive spin on it, until they realise that the only thing that kills the zombies is a vote. Yes, the zombie soldiers want to vote for the liberals who will bring the troops home, but there don't appear to be enough of them returning to make a difference. In truth, I would have preferred a tougher political stance than the one we get here as the message never goes far enough, as if they were afraid of pushing it too far. It is still an inspired idea, and the wry humour is welcome, but the odd bit of violence comes across as more of a sop to fans of the more traditonal zombies and perhaps the story would have been better served with a harder edge - it doesn't confront the issues as it should, instead tugging at the conscience. Music by Hummie Mann.

[Part of the Anchor Bay Masters of Horror box set of DVDs, which include a host of extras such as commentaries and documentaries to keep fans occupied.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Joe Dante  (1946 - )

American director of science fiction and horror, a former critic who got his big break from Roger Corman directing Hollywood Boulevard. Piranha was next, and he had big hits with The Howling and Gremlins. But his less successful films can be as interesting: Explorers didn't do as well as he had hoped, but illustrated the love of pop culture that is apparent in all his work.

Other films include flop sequel turned cult favourite Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Innerspace, the underrated The 'burbs, Matinee (a more obvious tribute to the movies of his youth), Small Soldiers, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, The Hole and Burying the Ex.

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