Friday, 1 June 2012


So, I thought, why limit myself to horror films?
Everybody I know remembers seeing something on the TV that has rivalled the scares of Hollywood's heavy hitters. Then it dawned on me, why not add a regular feature where I look at these small-screen scares?
And what better place to start than one of the greatest, most horrific hours of television I have ever seen?

THE X FILES: ‘Home’  (1996)

Dir: Kim Manners (Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong)
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Tucker Smallwood

SUMMARY: Thunder crashes over a dingy old farm. Well, if you can’t avoid the clichés, why not run with them?
Inside, in a scene which is poorly lit even by the X Files’ standards (now THAT’s saying something!) a woman grunts, moans and screams as she gives birth, tended to by three hideously malformed men. One of them picks up a fork for the procedure.


This was not something that was covered in my antenatal lessons.

Finally the baby is born. It is swaddled in rags, then taken out into the storm by the three men. As one moans, clearly distraught, the occasional flashes of lightning reveal the farmhouse in the background. That’s actually kind of cool. The men dig a hole in the earth and proceed to bury the screaming baby alive.

AND here come your opening credits. I imagine at the point this aired in the 90s, loads of guys in shellsuits turned off their Ace of Base records, picked up their enormous Nokia mobile phones and called their mates to say ‘Man, did you see that???? That was NOT rad.’

Anyway, the show resumes and we see a baseball plate being placed on the ground. the word ‘Home’ flashes up on screen. Ha, Home base, clever, well done.
A second or so later Pennsylvania is added. That's right, the town is called Home.
Annoying American kids say annoying things to each and prepare for their game of baseball... until one of the kids notices blood splashing out of the churned earth.

And then a baby’s hand. The children all look on, pretty damn horrified.

When I first watched this episode I remember it was pretty dark and disturbing. As I write this synopsis I now understand why Fox have NEVER repeated this episode since it’s premier.

Here’s Mulder and Scully! YAY! I love these guys. I don’t care how shit it got towards the end, when it was good the X Files was UNTOUCHABLE. I'm already thinking of at least three other episodes that will make their way onto this blog as Small-Screen Scares. Round about here they had REALLY hit their stride. The stories were tight, the conspiracy was baffling but fascinating and the character relationships were spot on. The writers clearly realised that EVERYBODY wanted Mulder and Scully to just shag their brains out so the sexual tension was ratcheted up to the max. It’s a shame the show went so spectacularly downhill before it died.

Anyway, back in this episode and Scully goes all businesslike (YEAH! GRRRRR!) while Mulder proceeds to start arsing around with a discarded baseball.
Seems he’s feeling all nostalgic for small town Americana. I like that the typical gender roles were reversed so often in The X Files. Scully the detached analytical mind, Mulder the emotional, caring one.
Then the Sheriff turns up. Sheriff Taylor is a likeable guy and his laid-back, small-town demeanor works nicely with our two favourite sexually repressed, buttoned up FBI agents. As Taylor talks to them, Mulder notices the three deformed men staring at them from the nearby farm. When he asks about them, Sheriff Taylor introduces them as the Peacock family.
Turns out the Peacock family have lived on this farm since the Civil War and haven't updated the place since then. He then suggests that the family has been inbreeding this whole time.


Turns out the three brothers live there alone as their mum and dad (and probably uncle... and cousin... and granddad...) were involved in a serious road accident years ago. Taylor seems pretty upset that the big cruel world from outside his peaceful little town is finally at his door.

I don't know why he's moaning, he clearly hasn’t read ahead in the script and seen how much shittier things get...
Everybody heads to the station so Mulder and Scully can gawp at the freak examine the infant. Scully is shocked and suddenly goes all maternal. This is also GRRRRRR.
Mulder thinks so too because they start talking about having kids and becoming parents.
This is about as close as they ever get to talking about how much they want to hump each other stupid. 
BAck to the case and the level of mutation suggests generations of inbreeding.


They then decide that the Peacocks have kidnapped a woman and are holding her captive to rape over and over.

I do not think they will air this on CBeebies.

With this in mind they go to the Peacock house to investigate. For a few seconds I think they got lost and walked into The Texas Chain Saw Massacre because the house is THE archetypal scary redneck house. Plus, it's so fucking dark it could be anywhere. YES, torches ARE ATMOSPHERIC but YES, I would also like to be able to see what the fuck is going on.

 As they explore, we realise they are being watched by somebody. Ooooooh.

Mulder here does something BRILLIANT. I will not say it.

I WILL show it though.

Ha ha awesome!

After failing to find the Peacocks, they say they have enough evidence to lead to their arrest re: infanticide. I'm not sure they do, but hey-ho.

They head out to their motel, but as they go, glowering eyes watch them from beneath the bed.

That night Mulder finally loses his love of the small town when he realises he can't get a TV signal in the motel.

A quick phone call shows that the Sheriff has issued a warrant for the arrest of the Peacock boys. He seems properly disillusioned with his home now and even Mulder feels a need to prop his hotel door shut after noticing that the lock is bust...
...But as this is going on the Peacock boys return home to talk to the spy. They walk outside, load the boot of a frankly BEAUTIFUL old school Cadillac with baseball bats and clubs, then set off for an as yet undetermined location...

Now I feel a need to say Glen Morgan and James Wong are LEDGES when it comes to the art of using seemingly inappropriate music in chilling or disturbing scenes. Seriously, I love the way they do it and it has never been used with better effect than in the scene that follows. As we intercut between the agents not shagging (but we all know they are thinking about it) and Edmund, Sherman and George driving to an unseen destination with their clubs and bats at the ready, the song Wonderful, Wonderful by Johnny Mathis plays (well, actually it's a cover, Johnny wasn't too happy at his song being associated with this episode, for some strange reason...).

This scene really is w...eally good.
Then as Sheriff Taylor is woken by the strains of not-Mathis coming in through his window we realise shit is about to hit the fan. Before he can get to his gun downstairs, the boys walk in through his unlocked door.
Taylor grabs a baseball bat and orders his wife to hide under the bed before lying in wait for the Peacocks. We can still hear Wonderful, Wonderful, faintly playing away in the background. A swing and a hit does not do the damage you'd expect, Edmund just grunts and disarms Taylor. Then the rest of the boys arrive. And they savagely beat the shit out of him with their clubs, while his helpless wife looks on in horror, leaving him a lifeless, bloody pulp. As the huge puddle of blood seeping out of his body spreads ever closer, Mrs Taylor has to move her hands away to avoid it reaching her. The movement gives away her position and the enraged Peacocks flip the bed with a howl and then lay into her too. An external shot shows the boys hammering away with their clubs, grunting savagely as the camera pans down to their car and the still twinkling not-Mathis hit.
Slowly the now nonchalant Peacock boys hop into the motor, then drive away.

That scene is better than at least half the horror films I've seen in my life. If it was possible to write applause, I would.


Oh, it is.

After Taylor's Deputy discovers the bodies he has a BADASS MOMENT.

Which Mulder takes the piss out of. Ha ha ha, sweet.
From here the three head out to the heavily booby-trapped Peacock house... and blood is spilled.

I won’t spoil this further, but I have to say that, despite it's clear influences from the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, Home was one of the slickest, most terrifying, boundary-pushing programmes to ever air on TV.

Yes it's horrible. No, it does not make you feel happy about the world.
But as a spectacle of true horror, not-Johnny Mathis hit the nail on the head.

HEY, I KNOW YOU: Um, well David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson OBVIOUSLY.
The SUPERBLY named Tucker Smallwood (SERIOUSLY!) stars as Sheriff Taylor. He's kind of a favourite with Glen Morgan and James Wong, having a starring role in their AWESOME sci fi series Space: Above and Beyond and guesting in one of their season two episodes of Millennium.
Glen Morgan and James Wong are pair of serious talents. As well as sterling runs on The X Files, Millennium and the aforementioned Space: Above and Beyond, they also came up with Final Destination (and Final Destination 3), plus the remakes of Willard and Black ChristmasThey’re good guys with a very distinctive style and trademark touches.

EVIL ON TWO LEGS (Well, six legs): The Peacock family are the monsters of this episode. Not just Edmund, George and Sherman, but Mrs Peacock, whose matriarchal role takes in a whole lot more than tucking in at bedtime.
It's implied that Edmund (the eldest) is also the father of George and Sherman.

Due to generations of inbreeding in the Peacock family the boys are hideous to look at and have a rare condition whereby they don't feel pain. Mrs Peacock has them strip down and checks them for injury each night, just to make sure they haven't harmed themselves without realising. They have a tremendous propensity for violence, build some pretty lethal booby-traps in their home and have a killer car!


CREATIVE CARNAGE: That superb scene when the boys invade Sheriff Taylor’s home to the strains of Johnny Mathis. The stuff of nightmares.


SCULLY (as Mulder starts playing with a baseball): ‘Compression marks indicate the shovel blade to be approximately six and three-quarters inches. Uh, the angle of movement and deeper indentation on the right side of the mark suggests a left-handed individual. I’ve collected soil specimens and, uh, although numerous shoe impressions were made from the sandlot game, I think a, uh, a couple of dental stone casts will prove invaluable to the investigation. Meanwhile, I’ve quit the F.B.I. and become a spokesperson for the Ab-roller.’
SCULLY: ‘Mulder, if you had to do without a cell phone for two minutes, you'd lapse into catatonic schizophrenia.’
ANDY TAYLOR: ‘The Peacocks built that farm during the Civil War. It still has no electricity, no running water, no heat... they grow their own food, they raise their own pigs, the breed their own cows... raise and breed their own stock... if you get my meaning.’
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.’
MULDER: ‘Oh, that was just a little bit too Chuck Bronson for me, Scully.’
MRS PEACOCK: ‘They’ll be coming now. We knew this day was going to happen. That they’d try to change the way things are. All we can do about changing things... is be ready for it... be ready for them. Let them know, this is our home and this is the way it's going to stay.’
MULDER: ‘When Edmund was a kid he could ground the others for playing with his things.’
MULDER: ‘What we’re witnessing, Scully, is undiluted animal behavior. Mankind, absent its own creation of civilization, technology and information, regressed to an almost prehistoric state, obeying... only the often savage laws of nature. We’re outsiders invading the den.’
MULDER: ‘Scully, would you think less of me as a man if I told you I was kind of excited right now?’

10 WORD WRAP UP: Mulder and Scully listen to Mathis in Hills Have Eyes

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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