Masters of Horror: Homecoming

Masters of Horror: Homecoming

A look at Joe Dante’s early career indicates that here is a director of great promise. His first solo film as director was Piranha, an admitted Jaws ripoff that transcended its cheapjack Corman studio budget to become a decent horror flick. From there, Dante made what I consider his finest work, The Howling, a werewolf flick with groundbreaking special effects and some legitimate scares. He followed that with his most popular film, the enormously fun Gremlins. After those three movies, though, things get awfully sketchy. Dante only directed three movies in the 1990s. His output in the millennium… well, I’ll just say that his last feature film was in 2003, and that was a dreadful Looney Toons movie.

In recent years, most of Dante’s output has been on television. This includes Homecoming, his first outing in the Masters of Horror series. Homecoming has an intriguing premise: all the dead soldiers of America’s past and present are rising from the grave as zombies, intent to vote a warmongering president out of office. Okay, so voting zombies might not sound too terrifying, but they cause some monstrous chaos, as monsters are supposed to do. The inherent problem with Homecoming is its preachiness. I understand that horror movies can be a vehicle to reflect and comment on social injustices. But here, Dante’s hand is too heavy. Instead of being subtle, Dante crams the message down my throat to the point where, even if I agree with his point, I’m annoyed at him for pushing it. The one saving grace of this episode is the performance of Dante favorite Robert Picardo. Picardo can be funny and threatening at the same time. He nails the performance as a sleazy political aide.

Though the series itself was uneven, the first season of Masters of Horror provides plenty of great extras, and this disc is no exception. Start off with a 24 minute conversation with Dante that serves as a career retrospective. Then there’s the 22 minute Working with a Master, in which various actors from Dante’s movies comment on working with him and the movies they produced. Combine these two extras and you’ve got some great insight into Dante’s career, even with the annoying antics of Corey Feldman. There are three onset interviews with the principal actors of Homecoming, a script to screen function, which is kind of hard to explain, and a Behind the Scenes, which is basically just raw footage of Dante directing. There’s a short interview conducted by Mick Garris from the early 1980s and a bunch of trailers and stills to round out the disc. The biggest sin of these extras is a commentary by the screenwriter Sam Hamm. Joe Dante’s commentaries are always a fun ride, but sadly he’s not included here. A shame.

Joe Dante’s career never really fulfilled the promise of his first three films. As a huge fan of both Dante’s and zombies, I found Homecoming not to be a Dante classic, but a decent addition to his body of work. Had he leaned back from preaching, Homecoming could have been a much better effort. But it still would not have reached the potential he displayed earlier in his career.

— Phil Fasso


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