Over the past few years I’ve gotten increasingly annoyed with one of my favorite shows, CW’s Supernatural. A series about two brothers hunting demons, ghosts, and on the rare occasion, just evil people. It was a great horror show with a little comedy thrown in, which made for some great memorable moments. However, over the last few seasons, maybe since season five, I’ve noticed the showrunners have gotten increasingly lazy with creature designs.
Special effects, or lack there of, is my biggest issue. Now I’m talking real practical effects designed from scratch, something original. The first three seasons featured some pretty great concepts and designs. From the brief appearance of the ghostly “Woman in White” to the Wendigo, there was thought put into every character. There was a unique look unlike anything done on television and in film. It was a shining moment in the series and something to look forward to each week.
Part of the reason fans loved the show was due to it essentially being a mini movie each week. More recently, it’s transitioned from a monster-of-the-week format in favor of huge season long arcs. This sort of setup has decreased their need to come up with original concepts for creatures.
Although, it’s not just new ghouls who have been seriously lacking style. Old ones have returned and looked completely different than in the past. I’m unsure if it’s because of budget or time constraints, but intriguing characters have been watered down.
A great example are Reapers. We are introduced to them in the first season when Dean comes face-to-face with one. It was an elderly looking man, but not fully human. This design was very subtle, but effective. Jump to the next season when Dean meets Tessa, a young woman who turns out to be a reaper. The reason for her humanly appearance was so Dean would talk to her. However, from then on all Reapers appeared as humans, despite not having the same motive.
We once again see the same thing happen with the djinn’s, or “evil genies”. Their first appearance is in the dreamy season two episode, “What Is and What Should Never Be”. The djinn appears as a heavily tattooed creature with blue eyes and a blue flame appearing on his hand to signify his magic. The clothing was also representative of him being a mystical, ancient being.
The next time, Sam and Dean face a group of them. Their appearance is extremely subtle, essentially having a single sleeve tattoo and/or neck tattoo. That’s it. It’s not like the makeup before was that complex or hard to replicate on different people. There were no special prosthetics or intense costuming. So it makes me wonder why they have been made to simply blend in as just another human in the series. For continuity purposes, at the least, concepts should have stayed the same.
Later we were given the Alphas, the main big bad for that entire season. All of whom looked like basic humans. Supposedly the first of every creature the brothers have come across. The most powerful of vampires, shapeshifters, and skinwalkers – and they look like any other person you’d walk by on the street. Later down the season line, we have another big bad called the Leviathan’s, who were all human in appearance, accept for poorly CGI’d mouths when they fed.
Everything for the most part has been consistently human in appearance. A few CGI effects here and there, but no real special effects makeup or design. It’s hard to excuse it when you know they are capable of amazing creature design. I remember how creepy a simple monster of the week was, like the Scarecrow seen below.
Now we get powerful monsters that look like you and I, as for example Eve pictured below. The most feared mother-of-all-monsters and she looks less than intimidating. As someone who has an extreme interest in designs, and with shows like Face/Off proving it’s capable, I know they can do better than what they’re giving us.
Let me know in the comments below how you feel regarding Supernatural and the featured characters!