The X Files Revisited: 4.02 Home

The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. Now eight years after the second movie The X Files: I Want To Believe, the show is returning for six new episodes in 2016. Here at The Digital Fix, we are going to work our way through each season, reviewing some of the big episodes – and both movies – across the years in the build up to season ten. With 202 episodes, there is simply too much to cover every episode; instead we'll pick the story highlights of each year. Next up is Home, surely one of the most terrifying, disturbing episodes in the show's history...

Ask someone which episode of The X Files they found the most disturbing and a few memorable entries will be mentioned. Eugene Tooms in season one's Squeeze and the Flukeman in season two's The Host. But even those chilling monsters don't close to the very human killers, The Peacocks, in season four's Home. A perfect, chilling horror story from start to finish this is one of the most infamous self-contained episodes in the show's history.

Home's pre-title sequence is straight out of a horror movie. A stormy night, howling screams coming from a farmhouse straight out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the influences are quiet apparent throughout the episode), a deformed baby carried out into the night and buried alive. It is with a doubt the most disturbing pre-title sequence The X Files ever did.

And it doesn't end there. The next sunny day, a group of local boys play baseball near the old farmhouse when one of the kids steps on something bloody in the mud; the baby's arm reaching through the soil. The episode cuts to Mulder and Scully investigating the same spot while in the distant the Peacock boys watch from their porch. Even in the light of day there is an air of unease about the whole proceedings and even the great banter between Mulder and Scully cannot change that. Local Sheriff Andy Taylor (played by TV veteran Tucker Smallwood) is obviously tense when he talks about the darkness at the heart of the close-knit community of Home. With rumours of inbreeding dating back over a century, the Peacock house is a place of legend from the start; everyone suspects the dead baby came from that home but no one dares approach them.

At least until Mulder and Scully arrive. After a very emotive but uncomfortable scene where the sheriff takes the swaddled baby out of the fridge and Scully attempts an autopsy the two agents head off to the Peacock home and you watch with bated breath with every moment they step inside. Scully suspects that a woman has been kidnapped against her will, raped and forced to give birth to the baby with terrible birth defects and so they began their desperate search while the three men are absent. Little do the agents - or we - know that the mother of that child is something far more disturbing. From the rotting head of the pig on the porch steps, to the flies buzzing around the dark, unlit house, to the secret inhabitant's eyes and heaving breathing, watching the agent's every move, it is a place of nightmares.

But it is not to say Home is dark and disturbing from beginning to end - though it is uncomfortable to watch at times. Returning writers Glen Morgan and James Wong litter the script with fantastic lively banter between Mulder and Scully, designed to break up the mood of the episode. From Mulder talking about his childhood summers playing baseball with Samantha to his comments about how Scully would be a great mother (even hinting at the suggestion that he would be a willing father!), Morgan and Wong really take the time to examine what makes the show's leads tick. It also sees Mulder and Scully have a laugh on occasion - something everyone would need in their situation - though there were a couple of times when it seemed inappropriate. (Overall, that's a very minor gripe at an otherwise excellent episode).

It is the moments of sheer horror that sell this episode, and there are two distinct scenes that really achieve this. The first is the shocking murder of Sheriff Andy and his wife. The episode has mentioned several times that people don't feel the need to lock their doors in the town of Home and the episode twists that piece of knowledge into a very unsettling sequence as the Peacock boys load up the boot of their white cadillac with nasty-looking maces and set off for a moonlit drive; Johnny Mathis' "Wonderful, Wonderful" takes on a sinister tone as it plays loudly on the radio. We see Scully sleeping in her motel room, Mulder watching a ball game in his and Andy and his wife heading up to bed in their home; all three are potential victims...

The moment the sheriff is woken up to the sound of "Wonderful, Wonderful" outside his house you know he is doomed. He tells his wife to hide under the bed and hides behind the door, baseball bat in hand, ready to confront them and you can cut the tension with a knife. The eventual attack as the Peacock boys burst in and smash the living daylights out of Andy while his wife watches wide-eyed from under the bed is terrifying. You're willing her to stay quiet, for the men to not notice her but it is futile. They rips the bed aside and she screams, meeting the same grisly fate as her husband.

The second equally terrifying moment is the final assault on the Peacock house. With the audience now realising that the mother is in fact the boy's mother, locked up inside the house after her supposedly fatal car crash ten years ago, the agents and a vengeful deputy go after the Peacocks. The first trap is set, an axe to the deputy's face. It is brutal, unexpected and makes the scene even more uncomfortable to watch. With the boys distracted by pigs set loose inside, Mulder and Scully go in search of the 'mother'.

Her reveal is perhaps one of the most disturbing moments in the episode, if not the show's history. Strapped to a slat on wheel under the bed, her face deformed, no arms and legs, she is skin-crawling. What is worse is that this is her wish, to be carted out to mate with her sons and continue the Peacock line. It is almost a relief - and a slightly amusing one too - when they shove her back under the bed as the boys close in.

Again, the ending has that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe. Mulder and Scully try to fight off the three nethandanal-type Peacock boys, their guns not enough against them. In fact, Scully only survives because one of the boys succumbs to his own trap. It is brutal, terrifying and keeps you on the edge of your seat even on repeat viewing.

And that ending is a nasty twist. The eldest boy escapes with his mother and as he crawls out of the boot on a remote highway at the end, you know the dark, disturbing Peacock family line is about to continue once again.

Home is a magnificent piece of television horror that is gripping, shocking and at times very unsettling to watch. It also manages to examine Mulder and Scully's relationship in the confines of their investigation. The X Files was iconic television but few episodes made their mark so clearly as this chilling tale...

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