Homecoming

Since George Romero pioneered the genre with 1968's Night Of The Living Dead, zombie movies have served as prime examples of horror's utility for political allegory, with the zombies themselves serving as a ghoulish metaphor for the disenfranchised. But Joe Dante's potent horror-comedy Homecoming, an hourlong segment made for Showtime's Masters Of Horror series, is a zombie movie that does away with metaphors altogether and just gives it to the audience straight. The zombies don't "represent" anything: They're American soldiers killed during the current war, and they've come back from the dead to vote out the liars who put them in harm's way. Anti-war sentiments like that normally have to be smuggled into conventionally frightening genre material like Romero's recent Land Of The Dead, but it would be impossible for anyone to come away from Homecoming having missed the point. In a featurette included on the new DVD, even Dante refers to the film as a "blunt hammer," directed not-so-subtly at President Bush's cranium.

Yet this is still the same Dante who made the Gremlins movies and Small Soldiers, so Homecoming compensates for its lack of subtlety with cartoonish wit. It's easy to laugh at the sheer audacity of sneaking such an unabashedly leftist comedy into a program called Masters Of Horror; sure, Dante throws in a couple jolts, but his zombies are non-violent dissidents, not brain-munching monsters. After Republican political consultant Jon Tenney tearfully speculates on cable news that dead soldiers would defend their mission if they had the chance, the zombies come back to prove otherwise. In the weeks leading up the next presidential election, they look to rock the vote, but Republican operatives, led by crass Ann Coulter type Thea Gill, try to leverage the situation to their advantage.

Though leftist features have steadily increased as the Bush presidency has bungled on, all of them have been forced to talk around the problem to a certain extent, either by couching it in the past (Good Night, And Good Luck; Munich) or attacking from a more indirect angle (Syriana, A History Of Violence). With only the most transparent of stand-ins for right-wing power brokers like Coulter, Jerry Falwell, and Karl Rove, Homecoming just comes right out and says what's on its mind. For the politically simpatico, it's a cathartic experience.

Key features: The bonus features run three times longer than the movie, with a commentary track by writer Sam Hamm, several documentaries about Dante and the film's production, and interviews with the cast.

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