I’m watching old episodes of “The X-Files” lately – on videocassette, no less – and not just because this week marks the 20th anniversary of the show’s debut.
I’m watching them because I haven’t seen them lately, and that circumstance applies in particular to one episode I’ve watched only a handful of times since it premiered nearly 17 years ago.
That’s just how disturbing “Home” is.
The second episode of the fourth season, originally airing in October 1996, “Home” is a monster of the week episode but just might be the creepiest hour of TV ever, from the opening moments of what appears to be a group of deformed creatures overseeing a misbegotten birth to the macabre ending centered around the trunk of a vintage Caddy.
When a group of kids playing baseball find the bloody, buried remains of a severely deformed fetus, Mulder and Scully are called to the small town of Home to investigate the discovery and meet not only Sheriff Andy Taylor and his deputy, Barney, but also – at a distance at first – meet the Peacock family, three adult brothers who have been living on their own for 10 years. The Peacock boys have isolated since their parents died – or were injured – in a car accident. I say “died or injured” because, after the accident, the brothers made off with their parents and Sheriff Taylor says it’s only assumed the Peacock parents died.
That’s not the case, of course. The dark, dark secret of the Peacock family and the town of Home seeps out thanks to the investigation of Mulder and Scully.
For once, Scully is the instigator of the deeper investigation. Fueled by her concerns that the Peacock brothers might be kidnapping women to breed, Scully pushes Mulder into probing just what the Peacocks are doing in their remote house.
“Home” is the stuff of which nightmares are made.
Written by “X-Files” veterans Glen Morgan and James Wong and directed by Kim Manners, “Home” hits so many horrific notes, from the initially barely-glimpsed deformities of the Peacock brothers to the horrible attack on the sheriff to the glimpse of eyes through a crack in the floorboards of the Peacock house.
“They raise and breed their own stock, if you get what I mean.” Holy shit, sheriff. Seriously, I think it’s time to bulldoze the Peacock homestead.
The brothers’ drive over to Sheriff Taylor’s house with Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful, Wonderful” playing on the car radio – and what happens after they arrive – is enough to make your skin crawl up and off your body and out the door.
I wasn’t sure how the brothers could be quite so deformed, but Scully does make a reference to generations of in-breeding. And sure enough, a family photo shows the Peacock parents had weird noses. Or somethin’.
“Oh no,” Mulder exclaims as he spots something in the Peacock house: It’s the front page of the newspaper from when Elvis died.
Even though the episode was set in Pennsylvania, the writers plainly intended to evoke backwards southern stereotypes. Not just incest but a reference to “The War of Northern Aggression.”
As I’m watching these episodes from videotapes I made at the time they aired, I’m also catching a glimpse of commercials from the time. This episode included an America Online TV spot. New at the movies: “The Long Kiss Goodnight.”