The series premieres on January 16 at 8.30pm on Channel Ten.
On the road trip from hell
Supernatural mines American folklore for its road trip into the horror genre
By Maria Elena Fernandez
January 5, 2006
Drawing from urban legends and American folklore for its weekly ghost stories, Supernatural picks up on the bloodcurdling aspects of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and pushes the genre with visual effects and gore reminiscent of popular horror flicks such as The Ring and The Grudge.
"We have a folklore in mythology that is as rich and developed as any world culture's and as uniquely American as baseball," says Eric Kripke, the creator of the show.
"I found that such an interesting and untapped source of stories. People have heard these stories, but they're all part of this great mythology of America that speaks to the unique fears we have in America. They're every bit as relevant today as when they were originally told because if there's any one cultural zeitgeist at the moment it is that we're living in the age of anxiety."
In the show, Jensen Ackles (Smallville) and Jared Padalecki (Gilmore Girls) play brothers Dean and Sam, who are on a strange road trip, trying to find their missing father and battling satanic forces that may seem familiar to those who know their horror mythology: the Vanishing Hitchhiker, the Hook Man, Blood Mary.
Ackles, 27, and Padalecki, 23, have grown up on the Warner Brothers network, which produces the series, and were handpicked to be its stars. Just don't expect them to be their usual sexy selves. On this show, their eyes bleed and they are chased by a half-man, half-beast through the woods, and that's just for starters.
"It's definitely anything but pretty out here," Padalecki joked on a day when he had endured six hours of special-effects make-up to get his eyeballs bleeding on command. "They're running blood down my face and out of my eyeballs. I'm walking around with these giant syringes full of stage blood that are tubed in through my face and made up to look like my complexion."
The brothers travel back roads to find their father, who vanished while trying to solve the otherworldly death of their mother; she burst into flames on the ceiling of Sam's baby room years ago.
Convinced she was killed by supernatural forces, the father teaches his sons that they have demon-fighting powers and a responsibility to protect others from the evil that lurks in small towns across America.
Supernatural's comely stars and offbeat humour will help, but mainly the show relies on one emotion to draw viewers: fear.
"We want people to turn the lights off when the show comes on and figure out that they bit off more than they could chew and now they're in trouble trying to go to sleep at night, staring outside the window," says executive producer McG (Charlie's Angels and The O.C.).
"We want to make you a little uptight where you have to call a friend or play solitaire on your computer to take your mind off the things that go bump in the night."
The 31-year-old Kripke's fascination with urban legends began as a child when he read the story of the Hook Man, which led him to one of his favourite books, Kentucky Fried Rat and Other Gruesome Stories. In college, Kripke examined the tales for what they said about American culture at a given time.
"A lot of these stories are cautionary tales, and they reflect what our culture was afraid of at a particular time," Kripke says.
"So, for instance, the Hook Man stories, which were predominant in the '60s, about the lovers in lovers' lane who were killed by a lunatic with a hook for a hand, were about a culture's fear of sex and promiscuity. You can investigate it at that level, but you can also just be entertained by how good and bloody a story it is."
For the past eight years, Kripke dreamed of parlaying his "personal obsession" into a television series.
First he envisioned it as an anthology but quickly learned that concept would not sell in Hollywood. Then he imagined reporters as his protagonists, fighting the demons in search of the truth. He shelved that one, too. Then the road trip idea, with two estranged brothers in their '67 Chevy Impala, navigating the back roads of America, clicked.
Kripke showed up for his first week of work with a list of 40 to 50 possible ghost stories and urban legends to work from.
"I landed on this idea to have this mythic road trip across the country, and it became the best vehicle to tell these stories because it's pure, stripped down and uniquely American," Kripke says. "These stories exist in these small towns all across the country, and it just makes so much sense to drive in and out of these stories."
David Janollari, president of entertainment at Warner Brothers, believes the brothers' road trip is the series' most engaging element.
"It allows you to feel on a week-to-week basis that the show is very real, that it could happen in your home town or anywhere in the USA," he says.
With protagonists who are in their 20s – not high school – the series aims to attract an older slice of the 18- to 34-year-old demographic as well as parents who will watch the series with their children.
For viewers who become as consumed by the folklore as Kripke, the producers have launched a website, supernaturaltv.com, where they can delve deeper into the mythology.
As Kripke notes, "Every small town has its ghost story or creature in the woods or a witch who's supposedly responsible for children disappearing."
— LOS ANGELES TIMES
Supernatural premieres on January 16 at 8.30pm on Channel Ten.
Source: The Age