Supernatural Carries On In The End

Supernatural aired its very last episode “Carry On” a couple of nights ago, which brought an end to the long-running horror/fantasy series about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), and their adventures in hunting supernatural forces. As a series finale it left me feeling unsure about how I felt about it. But the more I think about it the more I feel that its penultimate episode “Inherit the Earth” would have been a better finale.

*Major Spoilers will follow*

“Carry On” was a fine episode and basically served as a coda to the lives of the Winchester Brothers. Some may think the very last episode should have been some kind of epic throw down against the forces of evil but Supernatural ended the way it began with a monster-of-the-week episode. In this case, a nest of vampires. Honestly this was the least interesting element of the episode. What followed after the vampires were killed was more important. OK, final warning on spoilers ahead.

Dean died after the vampires were killed after being impaled on a metal rod sticking out of post. It was a bit of a surprise and kind of underwhelming as far as deaths go. That is because the two brothers (and their allies and enemies) have been killed before multiple times in the show and then resurrected. It was hard to believe this was it. Or that the show creators felt this was best to finally kill Dean off in a sort of mundane manner. Yet others may feel it was appropriate that the great Dean Winchester not die in some epic battle but during a humdrum mission. I disagree, and find it surprising that Sam would not try to find a way to resurrect his brother.

winchester heaven

The scenes that followed with Sam Winchester mourning his brother with only Dean’s recently adopted dog for company was heartbreaking. However, by this point I was wondering if the show ran out of money because of the lack of guest stars. Sure, we got to see Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) in heaven with Dean, but none of the other mainstays like Castiel (Misha Collins) or Jack (Alexander Culvert) showed up. I read that this episode was filmed after the show’s shutdown ended (thanks again COVID-19) and the showrunners did not want to risk bringing in many people unless necessary. Still, the lack of mourners/guest appearances robbed the impact of Dean’s sudden passing.

As Dean explored heaven (basically shown as the empty backwoods and roads of middle America), scenes were intercut showing Sam moving on with his life as the song by Kansas, “Carry On Wayward Son”, the show’s unofficial theme song, played. He fathered a son he named after his brother; we don’t see who the child’s mother was, presumably it was his girlfriend Eileen (Shoshannah Stern), but we never got a good look; and Sam grew old and died with his adult son at his side. Cue to tears as Sam and Dean Winchester were finally reunited in heaven. The end.

As I mentioned earlier “Carry On” was fine by itself but the nitpicks kept nibbling me. It was great to see at least Sam being able to live out a normal life past hunting monsters, but it was sad that Dean was not allowed this destiny and God knows he deserved it since he was the more spiriturally troubled of the two. His death while being a Hunter was appropriate, but it should not have felt so mundane.

The previous episode “Inherit the Earth” could have and probably should have served as the series finale for Supernatural. The Winchesters had their final confrontation with Chuck/God (Rob Benedict), after he wiped out all forms of higher life on Earth. In their confrontation, the brothers were outmatched by Chuck, but he was defeated by Jack the Nephilim, who absorbed his powers. Afterwards, Jack became the new God and restored the universe in a cosmic reset before he vanished to become one with reality.

“Inherit the Earth” concluded with a great montage showing all the characters the Winchesters met during Supernatural’s run as the two drove off in Dean’s car while Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” played. To me this was how Supernatural should have ended. A bit open ended as Sam and Dean Winchester ride off into the open road looking for their next adventure now that they and the world were finally free of Chuck’s control.

If it matters that much to any fan, it’s best to stop watching Supernatural with its penultimate episode and just imagine Sam and Dean Winchester lived happily ever after hunting ghouls, evil ghosts, demons and whatever supernatural force came their way. If not then consider “Carry On” to be an acceptable, if sad, coda or epilogue to their lives and the show itself.

José Soto

Of Love And Monsters

Love and Monsters was released last month through video on demand and had a limited theatrical release. Like practically every film since this spring, it too could not get a widespread theatrical release because of the coronavirus. It’s a shame since this extraordinary film deserves much more attention, though positive word of mouth might elevate it to cult status sometime down the road.

love and monsters dog

In a nutshell, Love and Monsters stars Dylan O’Brien as Joel Dawson, an insecure twentysomething doing his best to survive during a giant monster apocalypse, all in the name of love.

As told in the film’s opening segments, years ago, a giant asteroid threatening Earth was destroyed with missiles, but the fallout mutated Earth’s cold-blooded creatures into gigantic monstrosities that essentially destroyed civilization. Now what is left of humanity ekes out meager existences in underground shelters and bunkers, and do their best to avoid the bloodthirsty critters that have claimed the surface world.

Joel pines for his lost love, Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who was forced to separate from him years ago. Recently, he tracked her down at a colony over 80 miles away from his own and he decides to risk it all to reunite with her. The only problem is that Joel lacks basic survival skills and somehow has to find a way to make it through the deadly surface landscape without being eaten.

Along his voyage, he comes across a handful of memorable characters. These include a loveable dog called Boy, which quickly bonds with Joel, a broken robot Mav1s (Melanie Zanetti), and a scruffy but friendly survivor Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his spunky companion, a young girl named Minnow (Arianna Greenblatt). They help Joel out and teach him how to survive in the rugged landscape by using his wits and valuable survival skills.

Naturally, Joel and Boy face many dangers, some of which are genuinely creepy and tense, but he discovers his own potential as he grows during his journey. Sure, it seems implausible that Joel could have survived for years in the giant monster apocalypse without having basic survival skills, but his emotional journey was quite satisfying to watch.

Love and Monsters is such a pleasant surprise. It is not a dire, dark film, but it is still boasts its fair share of thrills. By the way, the creature designs are very imaginative and unique. The best way to describe the many monsters Joel and the others encounter is to think of those creepy pit creatures from Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong.

Yes, thanks to its lighter tone, Love and Monsters can be compared to Zombieland, though it is not as funny. Still, it does have a lot of heart, has charming characters and it is easy to tell everyone involved from the actors to the production crew to the writers (Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson) and director (Michael Matthews) gave it their all. The result is a satisfying giant monster film with a ton of heart.

In fact, the film strikes and inspirational tone with its message that although a situation may be dire, it is possible to overcome it and thrive. In some strange way, Love and Monster is somewhat relevant to our current situation by demonstrating the pluck nature of humanity will overcome obstacles, which in the film’s case are giant monsters.

José Soto

It’s The End Of The Road For Supernatural

After 15 years, the horror/fantasy TV show Supernatural is finally coming to an end. Not only is it the longest running program on The CW network but the longest running American fantasy show of all time.

Supernatural stars Jason Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who roam mostly Middle America through its backroads and as Hunters battle things that go bump in the night. These inhuman threats range from deadly ghosts to bloodthirsty vampires, werewolves and ghouls, to even Lucifer (often Mark Pelligrino) himself, and now God aka Chuck (Rob Benedict).

When thinking about it, the show is akin to a modern-day Western with a horror/fantasy twist. In fact, series creator Eric Kripke (now working on The Boys) conceived the show as such with the Brothers Winchester playing the role of heroic cowboys who come into a small, remote town, right the wrongs and ride off to their next mission at the episode’s end in their vintage ’67 Impala instead of horses. Originally, Supernatural was supposed to be about two reporters who fought supernatural threats, but Kripke was only able to sell the program by reconceiving the characters as two brothers looking for their lost father. It’s a good thing Kripke did this because who knows if the original concept would have resonated with fans.

supernatural-season-1

What made Supernatural such a beloved cult hit with its dedicated fans was the easy comraderie and chemistry between the two brothers. Tall and lanky Sam was the more intellectual and sensitive brother while hot-headed Dean was more emotional and intense. More often than not, the two brothers butted heads that usually led to each of them storming off for an episode or two. And all-too-often their fights were based on lies and keeping vital information from each other. However, they shared a fierce familial love and loyalty towards each other.

The Wincester brothers were so much alike with their basic everyman demeanor, yet they were distinctive from one another. Dean jas a sharply, sarcastic wit, and a love of junk food, beer, and classic rock music. Meanwhile, Sam, who gave up his study of law at the start of the series, was more of a hunky dork with a big heart; but he was just as tough as his older brother. Thanks to the solid performance by the actors and their chemistry, the brothers were the heart of Supernatural.

The many characters they met throughout all 15 seasons also became very popular and vital parts of Supernatural whether as scene-stealing guest stars or popular regulars. The ones that stood out most where Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), a gruff, down-to-earth father/uncle figure who helped the Winchesters in their missions; the sarcastic and scheming demonic ruler of hell, Crowley (Mark A. Sheppard), who had a soft spot for the boys; Rowena (Ruth Connell), a centuries-old witch who was always scheming with many tricks up her sleeves; Jack (Alexander Calvert), a naive and well-meaning nephilum, who happened to be the son of Lucifer; and then there is Castiel (Misha Collins), a stoic angel who looks like he’s auditioning to be the next incarnation of Constantine with his rumpled suit and trenchcoat.

Supernatural more or less followed a certain formula, each season had the brothers and their allies confronting a monumental villain that threatened the world or creation. Intersped in between the arc episodes were monster-of-the-week or other standalone episodes. Early episodes focused on monster-of-the-week threats that established the Winchesters with their gruff, but caring relationship.

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Top Ten Post-Apocalyptic Horror Films

The many post-apocalyptic horror films are intriguing and terrifying by giving viewers a dreadful glimpse of our potential future. In other words, they’re a fine blend of sci-fi and horror, as well as fantasy and even comedy. Here now are the ten best films in this sub-genre.

10. This is the End (2013)

Seth Rogan, Jay Baruchel, James Franco and Danny McBride play fictional versions of themselves as the world experiences the Rapture then the literal end of the world as demons ravage the planet. The film is actually quite funny and raunchy as the hapless actors do their best to survive the Apocalypse while trying to be worthy enough for salvation.

9. Zombieland (2009)

The how-to guide to surviving the zombie apocalypse is a quirky laugh fest that pokes fun at many zombie and survival tropes. The film is elevated by inspired performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, plus a hysterical appearance by Bill Murray as himself. Warning: despite what Zombieland claims, twinkies do not have that long of a shelf life, which should have disappointed Harrelson’s Tallahassee.

8. Stake Land (2010)

Taking place years after vampires have devastated civilization, this quiet and poignant road movie is very moving as it focuses on the journey of a sensitive young man (Connor Paolo) and his mentor, the tough-as-nails vampire killer known only as Mister (Nick Damici). Their ongoing struggle against the vampire hordes and the people they meet in their journey highlight this film.

7. Carriers (2009)

A pre-Star Trek Chris Pine leads the cast in this horror survival film about four young people living desperate lives after a virus wipes out most of humanity. Carriers is a brutal and unflinching character study that exposes the worst instincts of humanity and is frightening portent of what might happen to us in a hopeless situation where a disease causes our society to completely collapse.

6.  I Am Legend (2007)

The third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic novel is a flawed yet exciting examination of a lone human (Will Smith) and his dog after a virus turns most of humanity into savage mutant creatures. Smith’s performance and the production design are some of the best aspects of this version of I Am Legend; the landscape of New York City after nature reclaimed it are just stunning to watch. Although many have decried the film’s ending because it deviated so wildly from Matheson’s message, there is an alternate ending that is more faithful to the spirt of the novel. 

5. The Mist (2007)

This bleak and harsh adaptation of Stephen King’s novella puts viewers through an emotional wringer. Thomas Jane stars as an artist who is trapped with his young son and several shoppers in a supermarket after a mysterious mist engulfs their town and brings deadly and bloodthirsty creatures. Even deadlier than the monstrosities in The Mist are the trapped people themselves as they allow fear to overwhelm their sense of decency and common sense. The ending of The Mist differs greatly from King’s story but in this case actually outdid what Stephen King wrote and is a genuine and agonizing gut punch.

4. A Quiet Place (2018)

John Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt star in this post-apocalyptic horror film where civilization has been destroyed by nearly invulnerable alien predators that hunt by sound. Forced to live a life of near silence with their children, the couple do their best to survive their new normal and stay ahead of the alien creatures.  A Quiet Place is a film that oozes with tension and fear as we see this fragile and resilient family doing their best not to make sounds even in their own homes. Additionally, the film is beautifully directed by Krasinski who wisely keeps the focus of the story on the characters themselves, which pays off since viewers are engaged with the characters’ plight.

 

3. 28 Days Later (2003)

Director Danny Boyle reinvigorated the zombie genre with an ingenious twist. The zombies, actually infected and mindless humans, run! After a pre-credits sequence shows how an engineered virus is released from a lab, 28 Days Later jumps ahead and takes viewers through the journey of Jim (Cillian Murphy) a messenger who wakes up from a coma and finds himself in a mysteriously abandoned London. Before long he discovers that the city has been overrun by the savage infected who spread the deadly virus through a bite or a single drop of blood. During his voyage to find sanctuary with a group of survivors, Jim struggles to adapt to his new normal while holding onto his sense of humanity. The sequel 28 Weeks Later is not as good as the original film but further examines this frightening world. 

2. Threads (1984)

The most terrifying look at nuclear war since the American television film, The Day After. Threads takes thing much further than The Day After with a gritty, documentary tone. Taking place in London during the 1980s, the film bombards us with horrifying imagery and events which illustrate how fragile society is following a devastating nuclear war that levels the city and all of civilization. Threads leaves a disturbing impression on viewers with its depiction of a brutal and barbaric life after a nuclear holocaust. Before long, viewers will realize the luckiest persons in the film were those that perished in the opening salvo of World War III as the survivors are faced with a crumbling societal infrastructure where chaos overtakes law and order and humanity. 

1. Dawn of the Dead (1979)

Possibly the greatest zombie film ever made. George Romero’s sequel to his classic Night of the Living Dead takes place some time after the original. The zombies are gradually disrupting society as they feast on humans. Before long civilization collapses and the film follows the plight of a group of survivors who take refuge in an abandoned mall and keep the undead outside at bay. Dawn of the Dead is partly a thrilling survival film and partly a humorous commentary on society through the scenes of zombies clumsily acting out their past living lives in the mall). The film was a revolutionary and controversial post-apocalpytic horror film thanks to its uncensored and unflinching violence. Nevertheless, the film is a horror classic and the best post-apocalyptic horror film of all time. 

Notable Mentions: 28 Weeks Later, Bird Box, The Day, Day of the Triffids, Daybreakers, Hardware, It Comes At Night, Legion, The Night Eats the World, The World’s End, Zombieland: Double Tap

 

A Brief Look At Stephen King’s Cell

Stephen King’s Cell was written in the post-9/11 world and published in 2006. At the same time was a tribute to the horror sub-genre of lone survivors coping in a world overrun by maniacs, monsters and other terrors. Oddly enough the novel has some new relevance in today’s world in showing how society has abruptly been turned upside down by a “virus”. In the book’s case this virus is not biological but technological with devastating results.

On the surface, one might want to compare this to a flesh-eating zombie movie and the book’s dedication to George Romero (and Richard Matheson who wrote the classic post-apocalyptic thriller I Am Legend) adds to that comparison. But that isn’t necessarily the case, it follows the spirit of those zombie films but there aren’t any zombies in Cell. Rather it’s more comparable to Romero’s film The Crazies or 28 Days Later where civilized society is turned upside down when formerly normal people become raving murderous lunatics. Meanwhile, complete strangers band together to deal with a suddenly dangerous world. Note, although the film adaptation was not as terrible as most critics claimed, the less said about Cell (2016), the better.

The novel begins in Boston with Clay Riddell, a struggling freelance comic book artist who just caught his big break by landing for a graphic novel. He is on his way home to Maine, eager to break the news to his estranged wife and son Johnny when the Pulse hits. A signal goes out instantly over all cell phones everywhere that scrambles the brain of anyone who happens to be using a cell phone. Within seconds, anyone affected by the Pulse is turned into an insane murderer without any reason or intelligence. Clay witnesses to his horror seemingly normal people viciously attacking each other and those who weren’t affected by the Pulse. The sequences described are quite horrific and brings to mind the chaos and sense of being overwhelmed that the nation experienced during 9/11. People are running everywhere as explosions rock the city and no one can understand what is exactly going on.

As Clay evades the “phoners” (the people who turned into maniacs during the Pulse) he meets Tom McCourt and Alice Maxwell. They decide to get out of Boston,  and avoid any cities since the chaos is intensified in the urban landscapes. Eventually they reach Tom’s residence just outside of the city and discover after the chaos dies down that the phoners have developed a sort of hive mind. The phoners are seen migrating toward an unknown destination.  Clay’s own goal is to reach his hometown and find his wife and child. The other two decide to join him so they gather supplies and guns hike up north.

Along their journey, the group meets other survivors and battles more phoners  as the novel’s pessimistic mood gets even deeper. The reader is made to feel discouraged and broken by the characters’ hopeless plight as the phoners consolidate their grip on the world. They reach Clay’s hometown and discover his wife became a phoner during the Pulse but his son did not and fled further up north to Kashwak. Apparently the phoners are psychically herding all normal people up to this place by suggesting that it is a safe haven. During this trek, Clay and the others have had shared dreams that they were rounded up in a carnival-like arena surrounded by hordes of phoners. Despite knowing that Kashwak is a trap, Clay decides to go anyway in the slim hope of finding his son.

The ending itself is rather ambiguous and open-ended. Basically the reader has to decide what was the ultimate fate of the characters, although by the novel’s end the pessimistic tone seems to subside a bit to offer a glimmer of realistic hope.

Many have compared this book to Stephen King’s earlier book, The Stand, but there are diverse differences. While The Stand had an epic apocalyptic feel to it, Cell does not. Also the religious overtones and themes from The Stand are absent in Cell. Unlike his previous novel, this one focuses on a small group of survivors who are just trying to get by, whereas The Stand had a huge dramatis personae. One thing Cell has that the older book lacked are the 9/11 references, which adds a level of immediacy. And this is evident in the origin of the Pulse. Believed to be caused by terrorists, the incident represents the feeling of the world unexpectedly turned upside down.

The Pulse also shattered many illusions about our feeling of security in our civilization and the horror comes from learning how fragile our society is from how easy it falls apart. This fragility takes on an urgent relevance given our current situation. Of course, we are not on the verge of collapsing because of the coronavirus, but it has had a decided impact on how we live day to day. Despite its grim tone, the novel illustrated how human connections and relationships are key to our survival and why we will persevere in this crisis.