Which horror title would we like to spend Halloween with? That was the question posed by Warner Bros., which offered a spine-tingling list of delights to choose from. From classic frights and cult hits to the latest terrors, teen thrills and small screen scares. But one title stood out in particular, and in a way it encapsulates everything in that previous list.
Supernatural was a revelation when it launched. With a killer first episode – in the true sense of the phrase – it saw Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) carry on “the family business” of hunting monsters and saving people. The show first aired in September 2005, at the same time that a very similar series was reborn: Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Kolchak is not only a cult classic of 1970s TV, it was also a major inspiration for The X-Files. When Mulder and Scully’s adventures finished, X-Files writer and producer Frank Spotnitz brought the character of Carl Kolchak back to small screens.
On paper, there were many similarities between the two shows. Kolchak was a journalist investigating weird goings on and trying to get to the truth about a traumatic event in his past. Sam and Dean were two bickering, wisecracking brothers, also looking for answers to mysterious deaths in their lives as they drove around America in a Chevy Impala. Yet the two shows couldn’t be more different.
Stuart Townsend’s lead was a dreamy wordsmith who ended every episode eulogising in a way that we thought South Park had put an end to forever with its, “I learned something…” final lines. Sam and Dean, on the other hand, would frequently pop a trunk full of guns and knives and kick the crap out of ghosts and creatures (when they weren’t doing the same, emotionally and physically, to each other). The result? The weepy Night Stalker was cancelled due to dire ratings in November 2005, just weeks after it first started airing. Supernatural is currently in its 11th season on US TV. Enough said.
The enduring popularity of Supernatural can be attributed to so many things. It’s crammed with pop culture references and some cheeky winks at the audience (one of our favourites is when Sam asks Dean, “You’ve never seen House of Wax?” – another of Warner Bros. horror titles – the gag being that Padalecki is in it). It also breaks the fourth wall in much more overt ways than those clever asides, and if you haven’t witnessed that yet we’re not going to spoil any of those episodes here as they’re some of the best available. Let’s just say fellow fourth wall breaker Deadpool has a lot to live up to when his movie finally hits cinemas.
But the real reason to love Supernatural is for its horror chops. The initial monster-of-the-week format allowed writers and directors to play with different horror styles. The first season alone mixes everything from creature features and Ring-style Japanese chills to slasher fare and more classic ghostly goings on. When the show switches into longer story arcs, it never loses the monster hunting element, as Sam and Dean work cases amidst world-ending events.
So while we could have plumped for The Exorcist, watched Freddy tear through teens in Nightmare on Elm Street or flick through a bloody bibliography in The Vampire Diaries, we’ll be reliving the highlights of Sam and Dean’s epic adventures again. Who can say no to 195 mini horror flicks in one batch? As the song says, “Carry on my wayward son, for there’ll be peace when you are done…”