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Supernatural: The Complete Third Season (DVD)

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

Starring Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Katie Cassidy, Lauren Cohan, Jim Beaver

Created by Eric Kripke

Distributed by Warner Home Video


By the time a TV series’ third season rolls around, it’s either got your full attention or you skip it without hesitation when flipping through the channels. In the case of Supernatural, I’ve been onboard since the very first episode (see my Season One and Season Two DVD reviews) and look forward to receiving the box set a few weeks before the show resumes each fall. It’s a chance to look back over where the Winchester brothers have been, speculate on where they’re headed, and spend some time behind the scenes with the cast and crew. Although it’s short on episodes (the writer’s strike cut Season Three down from 22 to 16) and offers fewer supplemental features than either of its predecessors, Supernatural: The Complete Third Season still packs a powerful punch and is without a doubt the best of the bunch. Which just makes it all the more bittersweet that we only get five discs this year instead of the usual six.

Since most people have already made up their minds whether or not to watch Supernatural, I don’t intend to spend a lot of time preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this review, you’re likely already a regular viewer of the show and just want the goods on what extras are included this time around. But I do want to make a point of saying what an abundant amount of episodes are truly kickass in this third season. It starts off amazingly strong with “The Magnificent Seven”, in which Dean (Ackles), Sam (Padalecki), and Bobby (Beaver) battle the seven deadly sins among all the other demons released when the Devil’s Gate was opened at the end of the Season Two. This installment also introduces Ruby (Cassidy), who from then on always seems to pop up at just the right moment and possesses a special dagger that plays a key role in the outcome of Sam’s season-long quest to save Dean’s life.

Supernatural: The Complete Third Season DVD (click for larger image)Next is “The Kids Are Alright”, a Dean-centric ep that’s one of my sentimental favorites of the set. Ackles has hit his stride in finding the essence of Dean Winchester, and he shines here. Another recurring character is unveiled in “Bad Day at Black Rock”: the much maligned wheeler-dealer Bela (Cohan). Now I can understand why dear Bela rubbed certain fans the wrong way, but I never did harbor the animosity and ill will towards her that some did. When I attended the Salute to Supernatural in LA last March, you could literally feel it in the air whenever her name was mentioned. But not to worry. As those who watched the third season know, she more than got what she deserved.

In Episodes 4-8, things move along nicely with the boys battling evil ranging from a genuine “Sin City”, Grimm Fairy Tales come to life, a ghost ship, and the Anti-Claus in “A Very Supernatural Christmas” (in which we also finally learn the origin of Dean’s necklace). In Episode 9 Ruby’s true identity is uncovered, and Episode 10, “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, provides another highlight of the season. Bobby is inexplicably in a coma, so Sam and Dean do what any friends would: Eat some wacky African plant root procured from Bela and enter his dreams to get to the bottom of the situation. As you might expect, in light of Dean’s predicament of only having a few months left to live, he sees some pretty fucked up shit out in Dreamland, including a chilling vision of himself doing battle with … himself. It’s one of the most powerful scenes in the show’s history and just another reason why Supernatural is head and shoulders above most genre fare offered on the tube nowadays.

Supernatural: The Complete Third Season DVD (click for larger image)Proving my point, along come Discs 4 and 5, which are packed with balls-to-the-wall, non-stop goodness from start to finish. “Mystery Spot” and “Jus in Bello” are homages to two classics — Groundhog Day and Assault on Precinct 13 — and excellent in their own rights. “Mystery Spot” is especially entertaining and demonstrates perfectly what a fine line Supernatural walks between comic relief and the darker side of things. It’s also an outstanding example of the writers’ ability to have you watch an entire episode thinking it’s a stand-alone, only to sucker punch the audience at the very last minute by bringing in the mythos and amping up the precariousness of the brothers’ situation even further. Padalecki really stretches in this one to great effect.

Right here is where the strike reared its ugly head and threw a kink in the season, but it returned with a vengeance with the hilarious reality show episode “Ghostfacers”, in which we’re treated to a repeat visit from the “Hell Hounds”, Ed Zeddmore and Harry Spangler, who first appeared at the end of Season One. And that’s where the laughs end as the final three episodes provide a 1-2-3 knockout beginning with “Long-Distance Call” wherein Dean starts receiving phone calls from Papa John Winchester. Normally that’s something a son would be happy about, but considering John’s dead, well …

Supernatural: The Complete Third Season DVD (click for larger image)The next to last episode, “Time Is on My Side”, carries on the series’ tradition of including one or two unexpected guest appearances each year. In this case it’s the always compelling Billy Drago as Doc Benton, a real-life doctor who in 1816 abandoned his medical practice to follow his obsession with finding the key to eternal life. I don’t think I have to tell you what Sam has in mind once he hears about Doc’s research. But as everyone knows, there’s “No Rest for the Wicked” no matter how much brotherly love is at stake, and as Dean’s contract comes due, he and Sam learn exactly whom they’re dealing with and what she’s capable of despite her child-like appearance.

So for those looking for a quick, easy refresher, that’s the season in a nutshell. What about those extras the rest of you have been waiting to hear about? Instead of the couple of commentaries that are normally found in Supernatural box sets, we have seven “Closer Looks” at Episodes 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12. They are narrated by Kripke or the applicable writer, director, or producer; run a couple of minutes each; and touch upon what was especially memorable or significant about the episode. For instance, with regard to “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” Kripke gleefully describes how they set out to make the most brutal and violent anti-holiday holiday show ever on TV, which is why Santa Claus is cruelly slaughtered within the first five minutes. Deck the halls with splashes of bloooooood! Fa la la la la, la la la la. The “Looks” can be accessed either through the Special Features menu or via little camera icons that show up on the episode list. While I do miss the fun of a full-length commentary, all in all, these “Closer Looks” are a nice addition to the set. As is the five-minute featurette on Dean’s beloved Impala. Not only do we see a lot of the show’s stunt cars, including one that breaks down into dozens of pieces, but then we get to peek at the weapons stashed inside the trunk including stakes, salt, gasoline, and yes, the Colt. The guys’ onset antics take the gag reel to a whole new level this time around. It runs a full seven minutes, making it obvious they know how much people look forward to this feature, and everyone plays it up shamelessly for the fans’ enjoyment.

Supernatural: The Complete Third Season DVD (click for larger image)The last two extras are the yin and yang of the set. “From Legends to Reality” runs over 20 minutes and pays tribute to the men and women who work on the show’s special effects, special effects makeup, and visual effects. To be honest, those three categories have always been a bit of a grey area to me, but this mini-doc breaks them down and also differentiates between organic and physical effects. You can’t ask for much more than a group of dedicated, talented people whose number one goal day in and day out is to make up new monsters who are both spooky and achievable … and, most of all, believable. In Season Three they succeeded with flying colors. They are all rightly proud of the visual language they’ve collectively created for the show and certainly seem to have one of the best jobs in the business! On the opposite side of the fence, we have the 15-minute “pilot” for Ghostfacers. It does add explanations of and depth to those characters, but it just did nothing for me, particularly because of its lame ending. The Ghost Facers’ presence was a glaring reminder of Ackle’s and Padalecki’s absence. Unless they tighten things up, I’m not sure they have what it takes to stand on their own apart from the Supernatural security blanket.

Considering how Season Three ended, Sam and Dean are each in need of their own security blankets … or something to bring them comfort in the night. Times are bleak for our boys, and I sense that the dark, demonic tone of these 16 episodes is only going to deepen from now until the end of Supernatural‘s run. While nothing’s really “perfect”, this show has fewer flaws than most, and as long as The CW keeps allowing Kripke and crew to keep doing what they’ve been doing, there’s no reason to think Season Four won’t uphold the standard of all that’s come before it.

Special Features
• “From Legends to Reality: Supernatural Effects” featurette
• “Supernatural Impala” featurette
• Seven “A Closer Look” featurettes
• “Ghostfacers! Confessionals” minifeaturette gallery
• Gag reel

Season Three Episodes:

4 1/2 out of 5

Special Features:

3 1/2 out of 5

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Reviews

Friends Don’t Let Friends Review – A Haunting Mixture of Psychological Turmoil and Brutal Supernatural Horror

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Starring Brittany Anne Woodford, Jenny Curtis, Kanin Guntzelman, Brendan McGowan, Jake White

Directed by James S. Brown

We all like to think of ourselves as being surrounded by friends, but let’s face it, if we were to ever truly hit hard times, there are probably very few, if any, people we could truly rely on. So on some level, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film we can all relate too, as it deals with this very issue.

Stephanie is an emotionally unstable young woman who strangles her boyfriend to death after he insults and breaks up with her. She calls her friends to help her dispose the body out in the Joshua Tree National Part area, and instead of reporting her to the police, they reluctantly comply. As their car breaks down, the four friends find themselves alone at night in the Californian wilderness with the rotting corpse in need of disposal. Given their dire circumstances, they begin to become more and more aggressive towards each other, and this was where the film was really at its best. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how far the limits of their friendship could be stretched, and who would be the first to crack and turn on the others.

Anyway, their body disposal endeavor soon proves to be a mistake, as Stephanie’s ex rises from the grave as vengeful zombie demon thing with claws as long as knives. I’ll admit, I first I thought Friends Don’t Let Friends was going to be a movie purely about the limits of trust, so I was pretty surprised when the supernatural elements came into play. And when they did, the trust and friendship elements of the plot were somewhat downplayed in favor of a more traditional horror approach, and while it was still entertaining, I still would have preferred for the film not to have strayed from its initial path. At least the ending came as a shocker. I won’t go into spoilers, but let’s just say the even the most attentive viewers probably won’t see it coming.

As you can probably guess from a psychologically-driven film of this kind, the performances were top notch, with Brittany Anne Woodford being on particularly top form as the manipulative and unstable Stephanie, a character who revels in the revels in the power she felt when ending another human life.

With its mixture of psychological turmoil and brutal supernatural horror, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film I would certainly recommend, but keep in mind that it may make you think twice when confiding in people who you think of as being your friends.

8 out of 10.

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Coulrophobia Review – One of the Most Entertaining Killer Clown Films in Quite Some Time

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Starring Pete Bennett, Warren Speed, Daniella D’Ville, Roxy Bordeaux

Directed by Warren Speed


The word ‘Coulrophobia’ refers to the fear of clowns, and if you happen to suffer from it, you might want to avoid director Warren Speed’s film of the same name. However, if you can stand the sight of clowns with gaping wounds in their manly parts, then you’re in for one heck of a fun time.

An all-female hockey team get lost deep in the Scottish woods on their way to a match (don’t ask), and are captured and forced to participate in a series of horrific games by the Grock family of clowns. All of the members of said family are absolutely fucking insane, but the one that really stood out was Twitch (Pete Bennett), who wears jester cloths and it said to have a short attention span. He longs to be a violin player and wishes he could blend in with normal society like the other members of his family. And you almost feel sorry for him, even though he’s a mad killer with bells on his head.

Director Warren Speed also appeared as Milo, a grunting mute who had his tongue cut out when he was a boy. As mentioned above, we see a close-up shot of a open wound in his penis being stitched up, which is not an image that will be leaving your mind anytime soon. Speed is clearly fearless when it comes to his art.

Inter-spliced with all the torture and mayhem, we also see documentary-style telling the sad history of the family involved, and this was where the film unfortunately faltered, because these scenes seemed out of place and just didn’t flow with the rest of the plot.

Ultimately, however, Coulrophobia almost seems like a film Rob Zombie might have made before he lost his way and started churning out trash like 31. Comparisons to House of 1000 Corpses are inevitable, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. This is one of the most entertaining killer clown films in quite some time.

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User Rating 2.94 (17 votes)
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The Gatehouse Review – What Is Found in the Woods Should Be Left in the Woods

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Starring Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft

Directed by Martin Gooch


Now while no one will sneeze at the prospect of bringing up a bit of a rebellious child alone, it’s those damned kids that like to tempt fate by pissing off creatures in the woods…oh kids, they do the funniest things, don’t they?

In Martin Gooch’s moderately spooky presentation, The Gatehouse, a struggling writer named Jack (Willis) finds himself behind the 8-ball following the tragic drowning death of his beloved wife, and if that isn’t enough to torque your drawers, his young daughter, Eternity (Rayner) is becoming quite the salty soul herself. Unfortunately the little one has been finding herself bullied at school, and her recourse of sorts is to simply toss attitude around as if it was pleasantly acceptable. Her pastime has become lonely wanderings in the deep woods, digging for hopeful treasures…and we all know what problems reside in the woods, don’t we, horror fans? Well, Eternity’s father is attempting to re-start his writing career with a frightening backstory – taking the reigns on a novel that was abruptly ended when the author committed suicide, and supposedly the tome is quite the dark piece of literature.

Eternity’s never-ending quest for fortune and glory in the forest leads her to a most interesting (and ultimately) dangerous discovery (don’t sweat it – I won’t spill it for you). Bottom line here is this: the little girl has taken possession of something that should have been left in the friggin’ woods, and now someone (or something) wants it back PRONTO. What follows is a lackluster series of “spooky” events, and far be it from me to say, I’ve seen creepier stuff watching the evening news. Gooch then tries to bombard the audience with a plethora of instances and swerving plot direction – it’s fun at the beginning but can grow a bit tiresome over a duration.

Performance-wise, both Rayner and Willis play the perfect combination of mentally-shot dad and determined-to-be-independent daughter – their scenes are ripe with subtle contempt, and the right amount of indecision. Overall, the film is best suited for those fans of fantasy/fable-like horror, and while it might not scare the pants off of you, it definitely will give us all another reason to stay the hell out of the woods once and for all.

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Summary

Children in a forest-setting don’t always add up to cutesy-pie encounters with furry creatures – this one’s got a few scares to keep fans of coppice-horror appeased.

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User Rating 3.56 (18 votes)
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