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Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (click for larger image)Reviewed by Debi Moore

Starring Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, Jim Beaver

Created by Eric Kripke

Distributed by Warner Home Video

Note: This review assumes the reader has watched the prior seasons of “Supernatural” or is at least familiar with the basic framework of the show. If that’s not the case, proceed with caution as spoilers follow.


The couple dynamic is nothing new in genre television. From Mulder and Scully on “The X-Files” to Buffy and Angel (and Buffy and Spike), we’ve seen how important a role chemistry plays when it comes to a TV couple’s credibility and popularity. But you’d be hard pressed to find a more charismatic and believable duo than Sam and Dean Winchester, the fraternal protagonists of “Supernatural” who hunt and fight all manner of creatures and monsters (and each other). Their interactions take the concept of “chemistry” one step further. As portrayed by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively, Sam and Dean have become like members of the “Supernatural” viewers’ own families. We have been right there with them every step of the way during their journey, never more so than in Season 5, when they banded together to save the world from the impending apocalypse, which, truth be told, the two of them were pretty much responsible for. As we learned during Season 4, Dean broke the first of the 66 seals that keep Lucifer in check when he started torturing souls in hell, and then Sam destroyed the last during the Season 4 finale when he killed Lilith. So Season 5 becomes not just a battle for the souls of the Earth’s human inhabitants between angels and demons but also a fight for both brothers to live out their destinies and find redemption, even as it puts them at cross purposes.

If it all sounds a bit “epic” for a TV show that’s popular with the ladies and airs on The CW, then you obviously haven’t been watching for the past five years. Certainly cable shows like “True Blood” and “Dexter” are sexier and bloodier, but pound for pound, “Supernatural” is more emotionally involving and has a deep, rich mythology that could very well be the best the small screen has ever seen. Creator Eric Kripke and Co. have done what few have accomplished before them — put a horror series on network television that’s smart and well written, is often truly scary (or at least a lot darker than you’d expect for a show with such pretty boy leads), and treats its audience with the upmost respect and appreciation. But it’s bittersweet as Kripke had always said he saw “Supernatural” lasting no more than five years, and as we now know, it’s going to continue, meaning he had to tweak his vision — and his ending. Even so, the way he closed out Season 5 would have been the perfect “Swan Song” (Ep. 22’s actual title) for the series had it indeed ended its run.

Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (click for larger image)But before we get to the climax, let’s take a quick look back at some of the highlights of Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season. A key plot point this year is Sam and Dean’s dealings with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War, played by Titus Welliver, first appears in the second episode, “Good God, Y’all”, while Castiel begins his search for God, something that becomes an ongoing theme. The boys take on Famine (James Otis in a super creepy performance) in “My Bloody Valentine”, and then the shit really hits the fan when Pestilence arrives in town at the end of “Hammer of the Gods” with the Winchesters hot on his trail during “The Devil You Know”.

“Hammer of the Gods” is an especially interesting episode since it tackles a topic I myself have thought about: Where do the other religions fit into the Apocalypse? Seriously, unless you’re Christian or Jewish, God, the devil, angels, demons … they don’t mean all that much to you. “Hammer” brought out Baldur and Odin from Norse mythology, Hindu goddess Kali, Hindu god Ganesh, Chinese kitchen god Zao Shen, Haitian Vodou god Baron Samedi, and even Roman messenger god Mercury to work together to stop the war. But of course things don’t go smoothly although there is a pretty big reveal concerning the recurring character known as the Trickster that makes this a standout installment. And I’d be very remiss if I didn’t make special mention of Matt Frewer’s beautifully disgusting portrayal of Pestilence. I still shudder when I think about it.

Scattered throughout the rest of Season 5 are the real meat and potatoes of “Supernatural” — the episodes that, from their synopses, seem to bring the series that much closer to crossing the line from cleverly self-aware to outright campy. But they never do. Instead they suck you into what you think is a fun little diversion, a freestanding one-off that provides a break from the sturm und drang of the approaching End of Days, only to punch you in the gut at the end with a tie-in to the mythology that you never saw coming. Of course I have to mention “Fallen Idols” with Paris Hilton’s cameo, which ends with Dean confessing to Sam about breaking the first seal. A perfect example of hilarity to heartbreak in less than an hour.

Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (click for larger image)Other noteworthy episodes include Kripke’s all-time favorite “Changing Channels”, where we again meet up with the Trickster, who has trapped Sam and Dean in an alternate reality TV show universe; “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, a real tear-jerker that has Bobby’s wife returning from the dead; “The Real Ghostbusters”, in which the brothers attend the very first “Supernatural” convention; and its follow-up, “Abandon All Hope…”, which is significant for introducing the best new recurring character since Castiel, the demon Crowley (aka “King of the Crossroads”), who is superbly played by Mark Sheppard (whom you may recognize from “Medium” or “24” or any of the other numerous shows he’s guested on). Crowley is pivotal to the events of Season 5 and constantly tests the viewers’ deductive powers. Can he be trusted? Whose side is he really on? Sheppard owned the part and thankfully will be returning in Season 6.

Another major plus in Season 5 is the depiction of Lucifer, both on the page and in the flesh. It isn’t easy to make the devil even slightly sympathetic, but “Supernatural” did it effortlessly. With just five appearances he altered the course of the Winchester brothers’ lives irreparably and eternally. We should hate him; yet, there’s something that makes him quite appealing. Casting Mark Pellegrino was a stroke of brilliance. Sure, a lot of us know him as Jacob from “Lost”, which you’d think would be a distraction, but it turns out Pellegrino is so gifted that once he puts on Satan’s skin, a bunch of folks stranded on an island somewhere is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Instead, they’re thinking about who the bad guy really is here. Possibly duplicitous angels like Kurt Fuller’s Zachariah? He shines in “Point of No Return”, which is also the point at which Adam, the third Winchester brother, is reintroduced.

And from there the last four episodes bring it all home … or as close to home as these brothers are ever going to get again. We’ve already covered “Hammer of the Gods”; next comes “The Devil You Know”, which sees the return of the Croatoan Virus as a tool in Pestilence’s arsenal of dirty tricks and provides a huge reveal about Sam’s back story that will probably reverberate throughout the remaining life of the series. The penultimate ep, “Two Minutes to Midnight”, is where we get our payoff on the Four Horsemen storyline. Death is exposed at last. Sam’s and Dean’s fates are sealed. And then they have their “Swan Song”. The history of the Impala intertwines with the looming showdowns (in Detroit no less!) between Sam and Lucifer and Dean and the archangel Michael, Lucifer’s brother. It’s poetic and profound. Big words for a TV show that’s popular with the ladies and airs on The CW, I know, but they fit. And I’m willing to bet if you’ve watched “Supernatural” from Day One, you’ll agree.

Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (click for larger image)If you’ve previously purchased the Seasons 1 through 4 DVD or Blu-ray box sets, you’ll probably also agree that they’ve been getting skimpier from one year to the next, although this release has some pretty cool menu tricks up its sleeve. The Supernatural: Apocalypse Survival Guides featurette is set up like a video game where you enter Bobby (Jim Beaver)’s library and click on his bookshelf, his desk, or the next room to watch various extras. Two “books” are on the desk: Ride of the Horsemen (11-1/2 minutes) and Kripke’s Guide to the Apocalypse (10-1/2 minutes). They provide the bulk of cast and crew interviews. Horsemen looks at the Biblical, symbolic, and cultural aspects of the Apocalypse and its relationship to the Four Horsemen. Folks like Kripke, writer/producer Sera Gamble, director/writer/executive producer Robert Singer, writer/executive producer Ben Edlund, and executive producer Philip Sgriccia appear in Horsemen while Ackles and Padalecki join them in Kripke’s Guide, which looks at his numerous contributions while tying in the Book of Revelation to this season’s story arc.

The room just outside the library is home to two special features: a quick interview with Kripke about self-contained episodes that can also be found on BD-Live and a spirited tour of the new “Supernatural” backlot by Location Manager Russ Hamilton that juxtaposes scenes from the series with the bare bones buildings and streets on the lot.

Then we come to the four VHS tapes on Bobby’s bookshelf:

  • Lucifer/Michael Brothers? (13 minutes)
  • Apocalypse Preparations Conference (almost 17 minutes)
  • Demon Visitations (16 minutes)
  • Search for Lucifer (17-1/2 minutes)

    They’re all just what their titles imply and are compilations of a wide range of interviews (sometimes serious, sometimes random and weird) on these subject matters. The best of the bunch is Search for Lucifer, which features real-life ufologist and cryptozoologist (and Ph.D holder in theoretical nuclear physics) Franklin Ruehl on his own “Quest for Satan”.

    Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (click for larger image)Ten episodes of “Ghostfacers” (totaling around 30 minutes) are included, and they’re pretty entertaining. As is the one deleted scene to be found in the set. It’s from Episode 9, “The Real Ghostbusters”, and it shows Chuck (the great Rob Benedict) speaking at the “Supernatural” convention. It may not have been appropriate for the episode, but it’s a real treat for the hard core fans especially. Hilarious. As is a lot of the commentary for Episode 4, “The End”, even though the ep, in which Dean time travels to 2014, is quite heavy in tone and in terms of what has transpired during the five years prior. The participants are Kripke, Singer, and Edlund, who joke about how originally “The End” was supposed to be about Sam’s and Dean’s clones, but they realized the “stupidity” of that idea, and then it evolved into Dean going to the future and meeting himself. They’ll hook you within the first few minutes. These guys always enthrall and entertain with their enthusiasm, intelligence, and talent. And they even acknowledge the one flaw of Season 5: it was becoming repetitive and predictable until they realized what was happening at about the midway point of shooting (which is also when the commentary was recorded). Once they made that adjustment, things really took off and they could spend more time with character development, the hallmark of the series.

    It’s all good stuff, right? But a little light in the J&J department. Never fear. The de rigeur Gag Reel is here! It may be more polished and less organic than its predecessors (especially in the early years), but it more than makes up for it via its length. Plus, it’s still damn funny and very much appreciated. In a nice change-up this season, it concludes with a montage homage to everyone behind the camera. Very classy. See if you can find the three easter eggs (all relating to “Ghostfacers”), and we’re done.

    The extras are identical on the DVD and Blu-ray alternatives; however, in terms of picture clarity, audio quality, and ease of accessing the special features, of course the newer, high def technology wins out yet again.

    While the Blu-ray/DVD package doesn’t quite live up to preceding years, what we have here is another stellar season … and another 4-1/2 rating from me. Kripke may be passing the torch to Gamble, but there’s little doubt the change is in name only and the quality of Season 6 (and beyond, if the gods allow) will remain unaffected. And if not, then we’ll always have “Swan Song” — the perfect end to an almost perfect series.

    Special Features
    Supernatural: Apocalypse Survival Guides – Bobby’s Exclusive Video Collection
    • “Ghostfacers”: The Web Series
    • Producer/Writer Commentary on “Episode 4 – The End”
    • Unaired Scene from “Episode 9 – The Real Ghostbusters”
    • Gag Reel

    Season Five Episodes:

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

    Discuss “Supernatural” in the comments section below or in the Dread Central forums!

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    Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?

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    Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

    Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas


    While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

    A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

    When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

    Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

    Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

    While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

    • Inside (Remake)
    3.0

    Summary

    Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

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    User Rating 1.67 (3 votes)
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    What If Tina Fey Wrote Jennifer’s Body? My Friend’s Exorcism Book Review

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    “Rummaging in one of his duffel bags, [the exorcist] pulled out and athletic cup and slid it down the front of his pants. ‘First place they go for,’ he explained. He then adjusted himself and picked up a well-worn Bible. ‘Let’s do the Lord’s work.'”

    It was about a year ago now (it seems) that I first saw the cover of “My Best Friend’s Exorcism.” If you haven’t seen it for yourself in all of its glory, make sure to click the image over to the right for a more in-depth look. Awesome, right? Got to love all the VHS details such as the “Horror” and “Be Kind Rewind” stickers. Classic. Utter classic.

    Now I’m fully aware that one should not judge a book by its cover. Literally. But still the moment I saw this work of delicious art crop up in the inbox I had to read the book asap. Well, it turns out asap was about a year later, but all the same, I’ve now had a peek at the inside of the book as well as the outside. Does the content inside match the content outside?

    Let’s find out…

    For those who might not know, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” (henceforth referred to as MBFE) tells the tale of two best friends named Abby and Grethen. One night the two, and a few of there other friends, drop a bit of acid for the first time. While the drug never kicks in (no worries, there’s no lame twist-ending to be had here) poor Gretchen still wanders off into the woods and gets possessed like a motherf*cker in some creepy abandoned building. From there, things go from bad to worse until an unlikely exorcist is called in and things go off the wicked walls in all the best ways possible.

    Now, to review. First of all, let it be know that MBFE is more of a teen romance (between two friends) than a straight tale of terror. Think of it as “What if Tina Fey wrote Jennifer’s Body?” and that will give you a good hint at what the book holds in store for you. Not that that’s a bad thing. Still, you should be aware that the first 2/3 of the book is almost exclusively teenagers not getting along, bitch about losing touch, who is sleeping with who, and yada, yada, yada for pages on end. Dramarama for days. Mostly.

    That said, not only is the teen drama bearable (and truthfully quite sweet in spots), Hendrix keeps the horror in the spotlight just enough that I never lost faith the book was heading somewhere truly balls to the wall. And it does. Oh, boy does it. From the time the unholy shite hits the fan in the last third, to the time the last word is read, the book is filled with horror moments that will make even the most jaded fright-fiction fan gag, grimace, or stand up and cheer!

    You just have to get through all the angst first…

    But speaking of angst, let me get a bit of extremely personal business out of the way real quick. Can I trust you with this info? Sure I can. MBFE made is cry like a baby. Not kidding. There have been very few times in my life that I have literally burst out crying. I’ve had some sad shite happen in my days, and I have seen some sad-ass movies, but nothing has made me cry out of the f*cking blue like MBFE. I’m not going to go into details about the final 10 pages of the book, but it tore my poor horror-heart a new one. It was bad. Like snot and hyperventilating type shite. Again, not kidding. Thank the lord I wasn’t in public is all I can say. I would have arrested and thrown in the booby-hatch.

    MBFE goes along like a slightly horror-centric version of Mean Girls and Heathers for most of its page count. If you’re a straight horror fan, you’ll be at odds with whether you should bother finishing it or not. You will. Trust me. But listen to me now and know that once our heroine goes into the dark, dank bedroom of the school’s resident bitch to find out why she hasn’t been in school the past few days/weeks, the horror hits like holy hell. And it only gets worse (RE: better) from there.

    In the end, MBFE is a book ever horror fan should own – if only for the cover. I dug the hell out of the book (eventually) and I’m sure the majority of you guys will too. But even for those hard-hearts out there that just can’t stand to read about things like uncompromising love, and hellfire-forged friendship, you still need to own the book. You still owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you don’t care for it, that’s cool, just display in on your bookshelf in all it’s VHS glory. It will make you look cool.

    • My Best Friend's Exorcism - Book Review
    3.5

    Summary

    Grady Hendrix’s “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” is a killer mixture of Mean Girls, Heathers, and The Exorcist. Just think of it as “What if Tina Fey wrote Jennifer’s Body” and you’ll have a good indication of what lies in store for you within the amazing VHS-inspired cover art.

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    Knock Knock Review – This Throwback To The VHS Era Packs A Fun Punch

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    Starring Kerry Tartack, Sisi Berry, Chuk Hell

    Directed by Toby Canto


    I remember the glory days of my youth back in the early to mid-80’s, renting every friggin horror flick on VHS and keeping the cassettes well past the return dates, eventually blacklisting my name from damn near all of the movie shops in my hometown. For the sole reason of wanting to hop back in the time-machine, I’ll never turn down the opportunity to check out a film that promises to ship you back to the days of all of that cheesy-neon attire and overblown hairdos.

    Director Toby Canto was generous enough to offer his latest film up onto the sacrificial stone, and it’s called Knock Knock – about a WAY past his prime pugilist named Sam (Tartack) who is unwillingly thrust into a throwdown with a bloodsucker who happens to reside in the same apartment – damn noisy neighbors! His only birthday wish is to spend his 60th go-round safely hold up in his domicile, away from pesky residents alike. Well, that plan goes to shit when his kooky neighbor (Berry) comes by and pitches the idea of throwing hands with the newest tenant: a real creature of the night (Lucas Ayoub).

    Sam initially nixes the idea wholeheartedly, but when more of his quirky neighbors show up to his place to substantiate the vampiric-claims, Sam finds himself lacing up the leather for one more round…or two, depending on if he can still take a beating. Filled with more than a handful of goofy instances, this near-hour presentation won’t blow the doors off of the horror/com vehicle, but should more than suffice in the short-term until the next spooky-laugher comes slithering out of its hole.

    • Film
    3.0

    Summary

    Historians alike, this movie’s for those who want a reminder of how loopy those VHS days were, and the best part is you don’t have to rewind a freakin’ thing.

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