As I’ve pointed out previously, haunted house movies (especially major releases) rarely feature black families because, well, black families are rarely shown as embodying the suburban ideal that is inevitably shattered by a haunting. Home bucks that trend…to an extent. The family in question is half black — that is, it’s a blended interracial family headed by a black woman, Samantha (Samantha Mumba, still battling Megan Good for the distinction of angriest eyebrows), and her white wife, Heather (Heather Langenkamp).
The couple has just moved into their new Southern California home and discovers that they got such a good deal because it’s rumored to be haunted by its former owner, an old man with a fetish for wooden dolls and Victorian death photos. (For some reason, they keep a large portrait of him and his doll hanging prominently on the wall.)
When Heather’s adult daughter Carrie visits for a few days, her mom and stepmom, displaying a remarkable lack of forethought, ask her at the last minute to babysit Samantha’s 10-year-old daughter Tia while they go out of town on an overnight business trip. So, the bulk of the film is Carrie and Tia home alone dealing with a slew of haunted house clichés: weird noises, objects moving, cold spots, the TV turning on and off, clues hidden behind wallpaper, even the ol’ fridge door scare.
Despite all the familiar elements, Home separates itself from the typical ghost flick for a couple of reasons. First, the aforementioned interracial lesbian family dynamic is certainly one you don’t see portrayed every day on the screen, and it’s nice to see such inclusivity. Race is never mentioned in the story, but the couple’s sexual orientation is prominently discussed — such as when a local man welcomes Sam and Heather to the neighborhood and is taken aback by their relationship.
Another unusual plot point is the frank discussion of religious belief — and not in the typical horror movie “non-believer has faith (or lack thereof) tested when confronted by things they can’t explain” sort of way. Although their background is never fully detailed, it seems Heather raised Carrie as a devout Christian, and Carrie has maintained that lifestyle into adulthood (granted, that doesn’t stop her from nearly couch-boning her boyfriend while babysitting), but Heather has not. Samantha is a straight-up atheist and apparently has convinced Heather to go along with that lifestyle, much to Carrie’s dismay. Carrie’s public display of prayer at the dinner table, it goes without saying, bends Sam all out of shape.
It’s a real schism that’s a major plot point, but somehow, it’s never explained why Sam is so averse to religion and why Heather is so willing to give up her own beliefs. Perhaps it had something to do with their sexual orientation, but we never find out from this confounding script. To make matters more frustrating, it’s hard to tell what, if anything, the film is trying to say about faith. I’ll refrain from revealing the final twist (which doesn’t fully make sense), but suffice it to say, the religious character comes off as the heroine, while the godless ones suffer the brunt of the trauma.
Although this gives the movie a disturbing Christian propaganda vibe, it doesn’t feel as anti-gay as you’d expect from fundamentalist fare. In fact, Home features one of the more refreshingly realistic (read: dull) gay relationships I’ve seen in a horror movie. In a genre that tends to use homosexuality for sensationalism — whether it be camp humor, overt sexualization or exploitive perversion — this representation is frankly positive and not something you’d expect if this truly is meant to be a Christian conversion tool. It’s all very Fry meme-worthy: