Homecoming (Joe Dante, 2005); Pick Me Up (Larry Cohen, 2006)

"Homecoming is a satire of Bush's re-election and of the Iraq War"--no kidding. What's really surprising is the gusto and sheer joy with which Joe Dante so thoroughly skewers his all-too-skewerable targets ("This is a horror story because most of the characters are Republicans," he's quoted as saying). He stuffs his short film with as much caricatures and political references as he does cinematic references in his other pictures (though he can't resist putting "Jacques Tourneur" in one tombstone here), and galvanizes everything with a moral outrage not dissimilar to the kind of spirit that drove the Civil Rights movement.

Something just as surprising is how moving it is; it's easily the most heartfelt (and least gory) of any entry in the series. Dante has a zombie soldier shamble into the voting booth and it isn't about the voting zombie (a nice twist on the classic election trick of stuffing ballot boxes with the names of dead people), but on the young woman who recognizes him, who sees him not as one of the walking undead, but as someone she knew and maybe cared for and admired--more now, with this sacrifice way beyond any reasonable call of duty, than ever. Later Dante manages to insert a quick vignette of a lonely zombie taken in by a sympathetic black couple; it's like a Saturday Morning Post cover painting of a pair of quiet liberals comforting a disillusioned Vietnam war vet.

Larry Cohen with Pick Me Up directs for once not out of his own script but someone else's, and the results are more coherent (if not quite as uniquely wild); it's a helluva lot gorier than I remember Cohen ever being, but the over-the-top humor is pure Cohen. Nice to see Michael Moriarity back in a Cohen film too; judging from his very best performances (his small-time-turned-big-time loser in Cohen's Q comes to mind), he's every bit as talented as, say, Robet De Niro or Al Pacino; with this entry he's apparently also doing better, braver recent work.

No comments: