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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
• “From Legends to Reality: Supernatural Effects” featurette
• “Supernatural Impala” featurette
• Seven “A Closer Look” featurettes
• “Ghostfacers! Confessionals” minifeaturette gallery
• Gag reel
4 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?
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 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).
What If Tina Fey Wrote Jennifer’s Body? My Friend’s Exorcism Book Review
“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.
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.
Knock Knock Review – This Throwback To The VHS Era Packs A Fun Punch
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.
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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