The X-Files: Home

Case: A deceased newborn with multiple abnormalities is found in a shallow grave in an idyllic rural town.

Destination: Home, Pennsylvania

Amazing that ‘Home’, a scant 44 minutes of television, could warrant the first TV-MA in TV rating history, cause the FOX network to ban any further broadcasts of it (for a long long time) and become a darling of both critics and fans. But it did all of those things and also so much more.

‘Home’ takes an absolutely outstanding mix of horror tropes and weaves into them real and varied themes about the perversion of family values and the fading American Dream and how human nature trumps everything -- for all time. It explores Mulder and Scully's innermost feelings about parenthood, comfort and security. 'Home' also swiftly and effectively constructs vivid iconography that leaves us with enduring images while still fitting well-within The X-Files framework. How wonderful, wonderful.

I'm supposing we all went, individually, to our first exposure to any number of possible stories that embody the concept of the Peacock family when we saw this episode. Mine? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which I saw for the first time at age 11). The blanket over this entire episode being that same murky, twisted, dark-even-in-the-daylight web of family secrets so popular in horror movies of yore. But this time Mulder and Scully are our proxy to enter this house of horrors and they are so unafraid, they're nonchalant. In fact, a quip from either one comes at the most perfect moment and then the next one after that and so on. Sometimes it's merely a facial expression ('ELVIS PRESLEY DEAD AT 42') so inappropriately appropriately placed that our joy actually comes from the irony of the well-timed wit more than the gag itself. In fact, Mulder and Scully are so unaffected by the utter gruesomeness of the Peacocks and their way of life that it allows us safe entry into an unthinkable world. A world where burly brothers share a father who's their brother. Barbaric, brutal and driven by the most base desires they still can't hold a candle to the aberration of Mrs. Peacock, their mother, a quadruple amputee confined to a board with wheels under the bed, determined to preserve the bloodline with any means necessary.

Also existing in Home, PA, Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney... Pastor. The sheriff's wife, a pile of scrappy kids who just want a good sandlot game, a police station where the only practical autopsy room is a closet, and not a gun or locked door in sight. And maybe most profound, the conceit that these two disparate worlds cannot sit side by side for another minute longer. Broadcast in 1996, 'Home' perhaps stands out because of its fantastic allegory for the way our own world would change irrevocably.

Glen Morgan and James Wong are the responsible party for this script, by the way. Kim Manners directed it. Morgan and Wong were returning home to The X-Files after a failed series, determined to take the show to some unidentifiable next level while back in their family of origin and Manners, well, he had longed to direct the hell out of a real horror story -- this was the consciousness behind 'Home'. From its inception, the episode presented controversy six ways to Sunday. It really is a marvel it was even made. I mean there's a newborn baby buried alive in the teaser. Not to mention a shot from the baby's POV before it's over. Johnny Mathis refused to let them use his song once he read the script so they had to find someone to cover it. (That person was going to be beloved director David Nutter until they found someone who was a Mathis sound-alike.) When Tucker Smallwood (who played Sheriff Taylor) expressed shock about what he had signed on for, the crew admitted "it's bad even for us." One bright light though, Cadillac sent a thank you note for including their car in the episode which either makes them the smartest or least attentive car manufacturer on the planet.

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about Mulder and Scully in Kevlar again. Just kidding. But really, I'd be in violation of all that is The X-Files if I neglected to mention how beautifully they worked together here. They didn't just bravely and elegantly soldier through one hideous situation after the next, they simply can't do this alone and at this point, wouldn't even try to. (Mulder only got a clear picture on his TV screen in his motel room with Scully holding the rabbit ear antennae). There was only one scene (Mulder kept watch, Scully went to talk to Mrs. Peacock) without them in the same proximity, hell, most of the time they were even in the same shot. Watching their ease of being -- for an X-Phile, does it have a better word than the title of this episode?

Other Thoughts

*It was especially le producers and network execs that were freaking out over every step of 'Home'. They called it tasteless, tacky, everything under the sun that meant it was below them in every way. Oh god, I just love that so much.

*Wonderful! Wonderful! was Kim Manners' choice because "certain songs have a creepy, icky quality that none of us have really openly acknowledged".

*A word about the direction of this episode -- INCREDIBLE.

*The scene where the Peacock boys annihilate the Taylors might be Manners' finest work.

Quotes

Mulder: “Well, just find yourself a man with a spotless genetic make-up and a really high tolerance for being second-guessed and start pumping out the little uber-Scullies.”

Scully: “What about your family?”
Mulder: “Well, aside from the need for corrective lenses and a tendency to be abducted by extraterrestrials involved in an international governmental conspiracy, the Mulder family passes genetic muster."

Scully: "You still planning on making a home here?"
Mulder: "Nah. Not if I can't get the Knicks game."
Scully: "Well, as long as the brutal infanticide doesn't weigh into your decision. 'Night, Mulder."

Mulder: “Oh that was just a little too Chuck Bronson for me.”

Final Analysis: If I were going to give someone who had never seen this show before a shortlist of episodes to hook them, this would be #1. Also, Morgan and Wong: You're really upsetting me... on several levels.

8 comments:

Billie Doux said...

What a terrific review, Heather. I saw every episode of The X-Files back when it aired, and you brought back how deeply disturbing this freaking episode is. It was a game changer. Shudder.

Juliette said...

Great review, Heather.

I really hate this episode - I definitely wouldn't show it to someone to get them into the show! Your review made me consider re-watching it for the Mulder/Scully stuff, but I really have no desire ever to see it again. This particular branch of horror just isn't my thing. I've never seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre - this and a couple of episodes of Supernatural (probably also involving Manners!) and the only stories along these lines I've seen, deliberately so! I'm much more about ghosts and the creepy and the paranormal. But after reading your review, I think I have a slightly better understanding of why others love it so much.

Urgh, though. I need to go look at some pictures of kittens just after thinking about this episode!

Anonymous said...

Very few things scare me these days, I feel like I've grown increasingly desensitized to horror and violence...But to this day I cannot rewatch this episode. It still scares the bejesus out of me.

HellBlazerRaiser said...

I'm as terrified of the Peacock family now as I was when this first aired. Most brilliantmy frightening hour of TV ever for me.

Heather said...

What I'm, uh, sensing here is that everyone who's seen this episode basically needs a support group.

Well, while we're working out the logistics...

http://www.petsworld.in/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/dog-sleeping-with-kitten.jpg

drnanamom said...

I'm going straight for the kittens. This episode is not my favourite at all but your review brought up the things I do like about this kind of show - the social commentary that underlies the horror. I'm not keen on gore and nastiness and think this episode might have been even creepier if they didn't shove the Peacocks into the 'hillbilly' stereotype.

Juliette said...

Thank you Heather! I will keep that image up on my screen while ploughing through marking...

ChrisB said...

This episode is truly terrifying. I mean, really. The first time I saw it, I went into some weird catatonic state and hid under my blankets for the remainder of the evening. I have been putting off re-watching it again, but gave in tonight. I'm not hiding under the blankets, but I did avert my eyes through a lot of it.

I agree with you completely about the Mulder/Scully partnership in this one. It just keeps getting better. The look Scully gives Mulder when he says "Goodnight, Mom" always makes me laugh.