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Considering the immense popularity of the TWILIGHT saga, I would imagine that now is the perfect time for a television series that mixes teen angst and vampires to be hitting the airwaves. THE VAMPIRE DIARIES just happened to be that right television series at the right time- one that taps into a pre-built audience, ready to swoon over pretty-boy vampires that have a penchant for teenage girls. Fortunately for THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, the series does seem to have the right people behind the camera, as well as those highly photogenic individuals in front. With Kevin Williamson developing the television series, as well as serving as executive producer, one might say that THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is best described as DAWSON'S CREEK meets DARK SHADOWS. Not having read the book series by L. J. Smith, I don’t know how THE VAMPIRE DIARIES compares to its literary source, but after getting passed the unwieldy exposition and awkwardness of the first batch of episodes, the television series proves itself to be an enjoyable teen horror soap.

Set in the small town of Mystic Falls, Virginia THE VAMPIRE DIARIES tells the story of Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), a teen who is still recovering from the recent accidental deaths of her parents, but is trying to move forward with her life. However, Elena’s younger brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) has made her moving forward more difficult by withdrawing into a haze of alcohol and drugs to bury his pain. As the series opens, Elena begins a new school year and is intrigued by the arrival of a new student, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley). Along with the new school year, comes a rash of "animal attacks" that leave the victims with bite marks and drained of blood. Stefan is revealed to be a vampire, who has been around since The Civil War, but not the cause of the attacks- the other vampire turns out to be Stefan's malevolent older brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder), who has followed Stefan back home to continue his century long vendetta to cause his younger sibling nothing but misery. As expected, romance blossoms between Elena and Stefan, with Elena quickly uncovering the truth about the Salvatore brothers true natuire. Other revelations include Elena’s uncanny resemblance to a woman from Stefan and Damon’s past; Elena’s best friend Bonnie Bennett (Katerina Graham) discovers she is descended from a long line of powerful witches; a historic Civil War battle the took place in Mystic Falls lent cover to the townspeople ridding themselves of their own vampire population- a population that might yet be resurrected. The season one cast of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES also features Sara Canning, Katerina Graham, Candice Accola, Zach Roerig, Kayla Ewell, Michael Trevino and Matthew Davis.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON ($50) comes to Blu-ray in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired in the show’s freshman year: Pilot, The Night Of The Comet, Friday Night Bites, Family Ties, You're Undead To Me, Lost Girls, Haunted, 162 Candles, History Repeating, The Turning Point, Bloodlines, Unpleasantville, Children Of The Damned, Fool Me Once, A Few Good Men, There Goes The Neighborhood, Let The Right One In, Under Control, Miss Mystic Falls, Blood Brothers, Isobel and Founder's Day.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentations are quite nice, but the series does have some darkly stylized trappings, as well as digital manipulations that make the picture appear somewhat uneven. Moments bristle with so much detail that one can see irregularities in the makeup that has been applied to the actors skin. Other times, there is evidence of digital tinkering that softens the image, sometimes-just spots on actors’ faces, which indicate an unsightly blemish that needed a postproduction cover-up. I’ve also noticed the occasional soft focus issue, which may or may not be intentional. Color reproduction is usually very good, but is somewhat lighting dependent- the better the lighting, the richer the colors appear. Of course, there are also some moody manipulations of the color palette, which lessen the intensity of hues. Blacks are decidedly inky and the whites appear true. Contrast is relatively smooth, while shadow detail seems intentionally scaled back to hide what is lurking in the dark. The elements from which the episodes are transferred appear very clean. Grain/noise is noticeable, but generally mild.

All the episodes that comprise THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel Dolby Digital 640kbps soundtracks. Not sure if the sermons on lossless soundtracks fall upon deaf ears, but I want it noted that television series deserve better treatment than being released with just lossy Dolby Digital tracks. Still, the Dolby Digital soundtracks are fairly effective. THE VAMPIRE DIARIES come with somewhat better than typical television sound designs; however, no one is apt to mistake these episodes for anything other than television productions. As expected, the episodes are front-loaded, but nicely imaged. The rear channels offer reinforcement, with ambient sounds, as well as occasional active effects and musical fill. Fidelity is respectable, especially where the pop music laden component is concerned. Sound effects are reasonably convincing, but there isn’t much action in the episodes to test one’s system anyway. Dialogue is always crisp and easy to understand. Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 channel stereo soundtracks are also provided for the episodes. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the extras. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary on the Pilot episode with writer/executive producer Kevin Williamson, writer/executive producer Julie Plec and director/supervising producer Marcos Siega. Featurettes and other programs include the following: A New Breed Of Vampires (thirteen minutes), When Vampires Don't Suck! (nineteen minutes), A Darker Truth Webisodes (eight minutes), Vampires 101 (seven minutes) and Into Mystic Falls (twenty five minutes). An Audiobook version of The Awakening by is also accessible amongst the extras. A Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes close out the standard extras. THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

As I stated above, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is an enjoyable teen horror soap. The Blu-ray presentation is really nice, although the stylized trappings of the series visual design gives a somewhat uneven impression.


The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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