Archive for the Horror TV Category

Horror TV: Supernatural (2005 to present)

Posted in Horror TV with tags , on April 22, 2010 by gobbets

Dean: Damn cops.

Sam: They were just doing their job.

Dean: No, they were doing our job, only they don’t know it so they suck at it.

Premise:

Hunting down supernatural creatures, and rescuing people terrorised by them, is the Winchester family business.  Brothers Sam and Dean Winchester grew up moving from hunt to hunt with their father John, but eventually Sam goes off to college, leaving Dean and their father to work jobs alone. When John goes missing during a hunt Dean turns to Sam for help. Reluctant to return to the life of a hunter, Sam grudgingly agrees to search for a few days. They can’t find John so Sam returns to college, just in time to see his girlfriend Jessica killed by the same demon that killed their mother. Enraged, Sam quits college and he and Dean take to the road, hunting down their father, Jessica’s killer and anything else nasty that gets in their way.

Main Characters:

Sam Winchester (played by Jared Padalecki): the youngest of the Winchester boys, studying to be a lawyer. Sam is a trained fighter but is also a skilled researcher, who doesn’t relish hunting, but sees it as a means to an end.

Dean Winchester (played by Jensen Ackles): takes his role as a big brother seriously and hates that he can’t protect Sam from everything. He follows his father without question, always putting himself last. Dean is popular with women and comfortable with the subterfuge hunting requires. He is also very, very fond of his 1967 Chevy Impala and drives his brother crazy playing classic rock.

Themes:.

Family, the bonds of brotherhood, and the tensions between family duty and individuality.

The reality inherent in supernatural and urban legends.

Why you should watch it:

Supernatural manages a great mix between monsters of the week and a larger story arc about the Winchester family. The banter between the two very different yet very similar brothers is hilarious, and creates a clever dichotomy between their humour and the day-to-day horror in the life of a hunter. The classic rock soundtrack compliments the action and the brother’s approaches to life.

Weaknesses:

Supernatural can be subjected so some of the same criticisms as horror narratives in general: a tendency to depict women as either victims, villains or a temporary distraction, few characters of racial minority, and a generally cavalier approach to violence.

Ongoing Influence:

Supernatural is still a relatively new show so its long range influence is still to be determined, however it has revived interest in classic rock, which is perhaps unfortunate…

What’s your favourite Supernatural moment? Your favourite Winchester? Let us know!

Horror TV: The X Files (1993-2002)

Posted in Horror TV with tags on April 15, 2010 by gobbets

Well, that’s one of the luxuries of hunting down aliens and genetic mutants. You rarely get to press charges. ( Mulder in “Fire”)


Premise:

FBI Agent Fox Mulder, traumatised by witnessing his younger sister being abducted by aliens when they were children, seeks out cases involving strange or paranormal activity. When he discovers the X-Files, cases that, because of their unusual natures have never been solved, Agent Mulder is assigned to solving these cases, and new ones as they occur. He is partnered with Agent Dana Scully, a medical doctor, who is skeptical of anything that cannot be explained by science. Her job is to try to find logical, scientific reasons for the occurrences in the cases they investigate.

Main Characters:

Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny): FBI agent, Oxford educated psychologist, believer in aliens and paranormal phenomena, and conspiracy theorist. Referred to behind his back as ‘Spooky’.

Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson): doctor, scientist, skeptic and, somewhat paradoxically, a Roman Catholic. Scully gave up a career in medicine to join the FBI, a decision her military father and friends don’t really support. She is initially assigned as Mulder’s partner to debunk his work on the X-Files, but finds herself being drawn in to the strange world Mulder inhabits.

The Cigarette Smoking Man / Cancer Man (played by William B Davis): the leader of a group of men (The Syndicate) who are collaborating with aliens in order to orchestrate the future colonisation of the Earth. Their task is to engineer a human/alien hybrid, but some factions within the group are also trying to secretly develop a vaccine to resist colonisation.

In Season 8, Mulder goes missing and former New York cop Agent John Dogget (Robert Patrick) is brought in to investigate. He ends up assigned as Scully’s new partner. They are later joined by Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), an expert in cults and religious crimes.

Themes:

That the government keeps secrets from its citizens.

That aliens are among us, but humans conspiring with them may pose a greater threat.

That paranormal and supernatural events occur, that can only partially be explained by current science.

Why you should watch it:

The relationship between Mulder and Scully ranges from fascinating, to funny, to downright frustrating. Through the 9 seasons their relationship develops and their roles change but the underlying chemistry is there from the very first episode.

The minor recurring characters tend to steal the show, such as Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mulder and Scully’s boss at the FBI), and The Lone Gunmen (a trio of nerd conspiracy theorists who are friends with Mulder and help out in obtaining data through ‘alternative’ channels). The Lone Gunmen even got their own spin-off series in 2001.

The ‘monsters of the week’ are varied, unusual and cleverly executed. The show puts new spins on existing paranormal events and creatures but its real strength is in creating a whole host of new ones (for example the now infamous Fluke Man).

Weaknesses:

The underlying story arc of the alien conspiracy, and what happened to Mulder’s sister becomes unbelievably complicated. Some ideas are established that are just never dealt with again. And no government department would ever bear the enormous costs of what Mulder and Scully do and be satisfied with their reports.

Ongoing influence:

The X-Files has had an enormous impact on popular culture – from renewed interest in conspiracy theory themes, to the popularisation and updating of the figure of the paranormal investigator in films and literature. But probably the biggest legacy is the kind of ‘cultural shorthand’ the names Mulder and Scully now evoke, for example phrases such as  ‘it’s aliens Mulder!’ to refer to someone distorting the facts to suit their own beliefs, or ‘don’t Scully me!’ to refer to someone who is annoyingly rational.

Any of you have favourite X-Files moments? Share them with us!