Out of the crop of SF/horror/suspenseful mystery shows to debut in the
2005 television season, the one that had the most success wasn't from ABC,
NBC, CBS, or Fox. Oddly enough it was a little show that aired on
WB, Supernatural. Nominated for two Emmy's as well as a Saturn
Award, the show was able to do something else that its competitors, (Invasion,
weren't able to do: Supernatural was renewed for a second season.
The show's first season has now been released on DVD, and it's a show that
deserves a wider audience because it's very good. It brings back quality
creepiness to prime time TV.
In the middle of a calm quiet night, a young mother of two wakes up
and checks on her baby Sam and sees a dark foreboding figure crouching
over his crib. Screaming, she wakes up her husband who rushes into
the nursery to find the baby sleeping quietly, and his wife stuck to the
ceiling her stomach horribly cut open. Giving the baby to his four-year
old son and telling him to run out of the house, the husband tries to save
his wife only to see her burst into flames that engulf the whole house
burning it to the ground.
Fast forward 22 years. Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) is now
attending Stanford and has plans to attend law school. He has a beautiful
girlfriend and a close circle of friends. That all changes when his
older, estranged, brother Dean shows up one night. Dean informs Sam
that their father, who Sam hasn't talked to in over two years, has gone
on a hunting trip and is a few days late checking in.
This is bad news because their father hunts supernatural creatures.
Ever since the death of his wife, John Winchester has scoured the country
killing every evil demon, ghost and ghoul that he can find. He's
been looking for the demon that killed his wife, and though he hasn't found
the creature yet, he's not about to give up.
Dean and Sam have been trained for the past two decades to fight evil
too, and were very good at it until Sam gave up two years ago to attend
college. He wanted a normal life, and grew tired of the constant
violence and danger. He agrees to help his brother track down the
one lead they have to their father's whereabouts as long as he's back at
school by Monday.
Though they don't find their father, they do rid the world of a ghost,
and Dean is good on to his word and returns Sam to his apartment late Sunday
night. Flopping down on his bed, Sam opens his eyes to see his girlfriend
attached to the ceiling with her stomach sliced, just as his mother was
years before. As she bursts into flames, Sam decides that he no longer
wants to be a lawyer. He and his brother are going to find their
father, and kill the demon who has been tormenting them. The slightly
mismatched brothers start their journey, driving around the country in
a beautiful black 1967 Chevrolet Impala, searching for their father and
killing as many creatures of the night as they can along the way.
This show is a mix of The Fugitive and X-Files with just
a dollop of Hardy Boys thrown in for good measure, and it works
very well. There's a fair amount of continuity, mainly searching
for the father and learning more about the brother's past and that keeps
the show from being repetitive. It never feels like a 'monster of
the week' type program. They aren't just using the same script every
week and just changing the supernatural threat. This is a pitfall
that a lot of horror television shows fall into, and I'm glad Supernatural
has been able to avoid it. The overriding plot also advances as the
series goes on, significant events take place in this season, and it's
not like a series from the 50's where the heroes never get any closer to
the answer that they are searching for.
The show is very creepy too. It has a dark feel, and there are
moments of gore in most episodes, though this is never overboard and relatively
minor. It does keep you on the edge of your seat however. Battling
a mixture of urban legends and more standard horror monsters, the episodes
mostly all involve a murderous creature, and while most of the vivisection
and such occur off screen, they effectively imply what's going on.
There are also some nice moments of humor that are adding into the show
to relieve the tension. In once scene the brothers refer to themselves
as Agent Scully and Agent Mulder, and though the show is never gets silly
or totally breaks the mood, the light elements are a nice touch.
Stars Jansen Eckles (Days of Our Lives) and Jared Padalecki (Gilmore
Girls) work well together and have a nice on-screen chemistry.
They fight and bicker quiet realistically and in general behave like real
brothers. They do a good job in the show, and the only real complaint
that I have it that they are a bit too attractive (and all the women they
meet are bombshells.) It would be nice to see someone who looks like
a real person every once in a while, but that's a minor complaint.
The 22 episodes that comprise the first season are presented on six
DVDs. These come in one of those fold out cases, with two overlapping
discs on each page. I really dislike fold out cases and overlapping
discs, so this isn't one of my favorite packages. The discs are housed
in a nice slipcase.
The show comes with a Dolby Digital Stereo Surround mix that fits the
show well. The program would have benefitted from a discrete 5.1
mix, but this soundtrack was adequate. One of the first things that
I noticed was that they kept the original music which consists of classic
hard rock by groups such as AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Iron Butterfly, among
others. This music helped set a tone for the show, and I'm glad that
it was included. (Presumably producers are now including the DVD
rights when they clear a song for use in a TV show, which is a good thing.)
As for the sound quality, it was very good. Some use was made of
the soundstage, especially the front, and the dialog wasn't overpowered
by the music or sound effects. Distortion, hiss, dropouts, and other
audio defects were absent.
The 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic image looked very good. The show
was shot and mastered in HD and the resulting standard definition DVD has
a good amount of detail. The image is sharp and the blacks are deep
and dark. The show has a dark atmosphere with a lot of scenes taking
place in sewers, dark warehouses, and abandoned buildings late at night.
These low light scenes were reproduced very well, with details still present
in the shadows and colors appropriately toned. On the digital side,
things also look good with only a little minor aliasing in a few scenes.
Overall a nice looking set.
There are some nice extras included with this first season. There
are two commentaries, one for the pilot with creator Eric Kripke, director
David Nutter and producer Peter Johnson, and the other for the episode
Traveler with stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. There
are deleted scenes for seven episodes, a 21-minute featurette on the creation
of the series Supernatural: Tales From The Edge Of Darkness.
One rather fluffy bonis item was Day In The Life Of Jared And Jensen
followed the two stars over the course of a shooting day. The bonus
material is rounded out with a gag reel and a stills gallery.
If you're looking for a creepy show that has a good mixture of mystery,
suspense, and horror, this is the show for you. One of the few horror
shows on TV that really work well, it has some eerie moments and some good
suspense. While it's not as intense as a theatrical horror film,
it is as close as television gets. This series gets a high recommendation.