30 October 2016

My Thoughts on The X-files' Home

It's day 7 of Halloween Week 2016, and today I'm talking about an old TV-episode I saw last night. 

Home was first aired on October 11, 1996 in the USA, and it's considered to be one of the scariest episodes in the history of television. I watched it for the first time last night, and I have mixed feelings about it. 

This review will contain some spoilers for the episode, and even for some events that unfold later in the show. 

When a body of a deformed baby is found buried in a small community of Home, the suspicions turn to the Peacocks - a family of inbreds who have been living in isolation ever since the American Civil War. When the agents, together with the sheriff start investigating, the Peacocks will stop at nothing to protect their home.  

First of all, Home is a beautifully shot and very well-directed episode. I think this was the first time I was paying attention to the camera angles and the camera movements, because they're just beautiful. I love the contrast in tone, between the exterior and the interior. Outside, the sky is intensely blue and everything bathes in sunlight, while indoors, it's dark and sometimes even hard to see. This episode also has some of the most iconic shots of Mulder and Scully, and both Duchovny and Anderson look great in this episode (not that they don't otherwise). It was directed by the late Kim Manners and the man knew his craft. 

It's a little funny now to hear that Home was the first X-files episode to have a viewer discretion warning, considering what we get to see on TV today. And by today's standards, it may be a little tame in regards to the violence. But here's the thing: it's not about the violence. I do have a problem with the violence in this episode but it's not because I'm squeamish (we'll get to that later). Both the writers - Glen Morgan and James Wong - and the director create an atmosphere that is so unpleasant and "icky" that it gets under your skin. The inside of the Peacocks' house, the long shots with minimal lighting, the make-up, and the Peacocks themselves - all this helps to invoke a sense of unease and make you feel uncomfortable. I mean, the Peacocks are effing inbreds who mate with their mother who lives under the bed - that alone is enough to make you feel all bad and sticky. Wong and the gang have succeeded in creating truly terrifying and despicable villains in a show that already has some of the creepiest monsters, like Eugene Tooms, Flukeman, and the Pusher. Ugh, they're terrible. I hate them. But I love to hate them. 

Home also appears to be the first episode to mention Scully's baby angst. This is where she starts asking questions about motherhood, and she almost foreshadows her own fate, when she wonders what it does to a mother when her child is taken away from her. I have to say, this is a weird episode to start off Scully's baby angst. But in its own way, it does make sense. The buried baby was suffering from every medical anomaly known to Doctor Scully, and when she herself gets pregnant later, in season 8, there are legitimate reasons to suspect that there is something seriously wrong with her baby. 

I didn't see this episode when it first aired, but I can imagine that it generated the same kind of reactions from the audience as the latest Walking Dead season opener. And here's where my problems with Home begin. Was there any intention by the creators to make this episode so violent other than to shock their audience? I'm okay with violence in fiction as long as it serves some kind of purpose. And I'm not sure if it does serve a purpose here other than to be a gimmick. I understand that we need to see the Peacocks as the worst of the worst, the dreg of humanity. And what they do with those baseball bats and their Home Alone booby traps really helps to paint the picture. My questions is, is it necessary? But, to the writers' credit, most of the "deeds" are kept off-screen, which does leave something to the imagination, and it's something that a lot of film makers tend to forget about, I think. 

My other problem with this episode is the writing. And this is mind-blowing. I mean, it's The X-files we're talking about. Nevertheless, the writing suffers in this one. The plot is rushed, and there are parts of the story that make no sense. First of all, why do the agents and the Deputy storm the Peacock house without any backup? This is something that I can expect from Mulder, but not from his professional, by-the-book partner. She is supposed to be the one to try and talk Mulder out of it. Instead she acts completely out of character, by eagerly following his plan. And the Deputy gets killed and eaten as a result. 

And while the Peacocks are feasting on him, Mulder, instead of showing any kind of emotion or shock, starts going on about human nature and animal instincts. This is the kind of speech that he would usually give in the end of the episode, not in the middle of a cannibalistic Thanksgiving feast. Mulder is a cynic with a morbid sense of humour, but he's never this callous.

My main problem with Home is that Mulder and Scully act out of character. When you know these characters so well, it's especially annoying when the writers have them do something you know they normally wouldn't. I've always praised The X-files for being a character-driven show. Well, Home is the exception to the rule. 

Home is not a bad episode. It has its problems, but it's very scary and you can see just by looking at some of the shots, how much love Manners has put in this production. Despite the obvious problems with characterisation and the plot, this is a classic X-file, and is has almost all of the stuff I love about this show - the humour, the scares, Scully's hair. And the amazing direction by Kim Manners. I also like the themes that the writers touch upon here, such as family values, modernisation versus tradition, and what it means to have a home. It's an episode that I would gladly watch again. 

And this concludes our Halloween Week 2016. I've had so much fun writing all these posts, and watching and reading scary stories all week. I wish it didn't have to end, because there are more books and movies that I want to talk about, but next week is the first week of NaNoWriMo, and I'll be mostly writing about my writing. 

Thank you for joining me. I had no idea my Buffy-post would get so many views, it was such a nice surprise. 

Happy Halloween! 


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