Created by Eric Kripke
Distributed by Warner Home Video
If, like me, you became a fan of Supernatural during its initial run (click here for our Season One DVD review), then no doubt, also like me, you probably alternated between loving and hating Season Two. On the plus side, it opened and closed strongly, expanding upon the series’ main storyline (that of Sam and Dean hunting down the yellow-eyed monster who caused so much grief to the Winchester family) and concluding it in a most satisfactory manner. However, several early installments rehashed the same ground over and over before the writers eventually found their groove midway through the season and sent our boys off on their way toward redemption.
Speaking of rehashing, rather than provide back-story (and reiterate my affection for both of the main characters, the versatile actors who portray them, and the creator of the world in which they find themselves), this review will assume that you’ve been watching the show from the beginning and are up-to-date on the events that have transpired. Still, it is worth noting that Supernatural is at its best when it focuses on the relationship between brothers Sam and Dean, and there’s no shortage of episodes that fit that category, starting with the season opener “In My Time of Dying.” This one’s definitely worth viewing twice in order to catch the highly entertaining commentary by director Kim Manners along with both Padalecki and Ackles. It’s obvious the camaraderie between the two stars that began during Season One has only increased. But then the series hits a lull with some basically throwaway segments that don’t do much to further along the narrative, most notably those involving damsel in distress Jo (Alona Tal), whose main purpose at first seems to be as a potential love interest for Dean. Thankfully that idea is dropped quickly and the character beats a hasty retreat from the series, at least for the time being.
Disc 3 is when things finally get rolling. The stand-alone, “monster of the week” type offerings that follow are among the season’s best: “Playthings” about a haunted hotel, “Nightshifter” about a string of odd bank robberies, “Heart” about a werewolf on the loose, and “Folsom Prison Blues” about a haunted jail are stand-outs, especially “Heart,” in which Sam gets to indulge in a little romance for a change. His lady love is charmingly played by guest star Emmanuelle (Saw II) Vaugier; too bad the younger Winchester never seems to be able to hold onto those he cares about the most. The ending is without a doubt one of the most heart-wrenching we’ve yet to see in the series. Fortunately, Season Two also provides a healthy dose of the comic relief we’ve come to rely on. “Tall Tales” and “Hollywood Babylon” are shining examples, especially the latter, which manages to poke fun at just about every Hollywood and genre stereotype known to man. But what really makes this set worth buying is the aforementioned main storyline, and the two-part finale “All Hell Breaks Loose” brings all of its disparate parts together into a cohesive whole that rewards loyal viewers with a proper climax while laying the groundwork for Season Three (and hopefully beyond).
Continuing the practice started in Season One of utilizing notable guest stars, Season Two brings us not only Ms. Vaugier but also Battlestar Galactica‘s Tricia Helfer, Katharine Isabelle from the Ginger Snaps series, Linda Blair and Jason Gedrick as a couple of detectives who wind up apprehending and then helping the brothers, and genre favorite Gary Cole. The rest of the supporting cast is rounded out primarily by Canadian actors, most of whom do a fine job of portraying the various individuals who cross Sam and Dean’s path either as living people who require their help or as the demons and other entities who do battle with them.
As always, the soundtrack for the show is stellar and serves as another character for viewers to embrace and appreciate. From the appropriately soulful tracks found in “Crossroad Blues” to AC/DC and Journey in “Bloodlust” to Styx, The Doors, Dylan, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and even Sinatra scattered among other episodes, there’s no other series on TV that uses music to convey mood and emotion as well as Supernatural. Week in and week out, it’s exciting to see what the Music Department has in store for us, and I feel confident that the best is yet to come as they delve ever deeper into the characters and their story arcs.
I also must make mention of Serge Ladouceur, the director of photography for Supernatural. He’s been with the series from the onset and is responsible for maintaining its consistent “look” that with one glance at the screen enables the viewer to recognize it instantaneously. Ladouceur’s palette may strike those unfamiliar with the show as somewhat washed out, but after spending time with the Winchesters and their various predicaments, his choices become obvious. I can’t imagine them being shot in bright light and happy colors; their melancholy and isolation demand subdued shades of gray and lots of darkness. Same with the production design, art direction, set decoration, and sound design — when it comes to the technical side of Supernatural, the expression “less is more” has never been more applicable.
That is not, however, true with respect to the special effects, which are light years better than they deserve to be considering the show’s time and budget constraints, or the special features found in this box set. As was the case with Season One, fans are given just about everything they could ask for … and more. Discs 1, 2, and 3 offer a handful of unaired (aka deleted) scenes that don’t add a whole lot to the mix but are enjoyable to watch nonetheless. The gag reel is just as humorous as you’d expect given the cast and crew’s personalities, and the three webisodes (which range from 3 to 8 minutes each) do a nice job of spotlighting a few members of the crew who are often overlooked: visual effects, writers, and props. The segment on writing does a perfect job of summarizing what it is about Supernatural that makes it so special — its knack for combining scary, funny, angsty, bleak, and philosophical ideas into one very compelling package.
But the crowing jewel of the extras is something called The Devil’s Road Map, an interactive map of the US that highlights the locations Dean and Sam travelled to over the course of Season Two. You can click on each individual city or play them all at once. Some are full-blown featurettes detailing the specific monster or urban legend the guys had to deal with, some are text-only factoids about the episode, and the rest are audio-only behind-the-scenes tidbits like Jensen’s birthday reminiscence. Also, before you go crazy looking for it, note that for whatever reason, The Episode from Hell mini-documentary is only accessible via the Road Map. It all sounds a bit convoluted I know, but believe me; this is one cool-ass extra that provides a helluva lot of amusement and information.
So there we have it — another tremendous package for a truly terrific show. But is Season Two the be-all and end-all of Supernatural? I would say not quite. It does do justice to Season One but never surpasses it. What it gets 100% right though is its advancement of the character arcs of Sam and Dean in preparation for the next phase of their hunting adventures. Their yellow-eyed nemesis may be done for, but the damage he inflicted will have repercussions for many moons, and I for one can’t wait to see how they handle it. Join me on October 4th for the Season Three premiere on the CW Network when the Winchester boys raise some hell against seven demons based on the Seven Deadly Sins that have been released into the world. My money’s on Sam and Dean. And who knows? We may even get to burn some more bones this year!
• Commentary on “In My Time of Dying” by executive producer/director Kim Manners and stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles
• Commentary on “What is and What Should Never Be” by creator/executive producer Eric Kripke
• Commentary on “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part I” by creator/executive producer Eric Kripke, executive producer/director Robert Singer, and writer Sera Gamble
• Unaired scenes
• The Devil’s Road Map
• The Episode From Hell: The Making of “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part II”
• Gag reel
• Jared Padalecki’s original screen test
• Webisode gallery
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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