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With the obligatory nod to the immensely popular TWILIGHT saga, Kevin Williamson developed THE VAMPIRE DIARIES for television from the series of novels by L. J. Smith, as a teen angst laden soap opera that is best described as DAWSON'S CREEK meets DARK SHADOWS. In its second season, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES adds werewolves to the supernatural mix, thus making it even more like TWILIGHT, yet the television series does maintain its own separate identity. Of course, there is no denying that THE VAMPIRE DIARIES taps into a pre-built audience, ready to swoon over pretty-boy vampires that have a penchant for teenage girls. Still, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES also gives off the small southern town gothic vibe, where everything is all sunshine on the exterior… but where many dark secrets lurk just below the surface- a sort of TWIN PEAKS where supernatural beasties run amok.

Set in the small town of Mystic Falls, Virginia THE VAMPIRE DIARIES tells the story of recently orphaned high school student Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), who is moving forward with her life. However, Elena’s younger brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) has had more difficulty moving forward past their parents deaths; making a number of wrong decisions to help bury his pain. Things change in Mystic Falls with the arrival of Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) and his older brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder). Stefan and Damon purport to be decedents of one of Mystic Falls’ founding families… even being named for two of their Civil War era ancestors. However, Stefan and Damon are soon revealed to be vampires, who have been around since The Civil War, and are the actual Salvatore family members they were supposedly named for. While romance blossoms between Elena and the good Salvatore brother Stefan… Damon proves to be a darker, malevolent force, who has followed Stefan back to their ancestral home to continue his eternal vendetta against his younger sibling. As it turns out, Elena is a dead ringer for Katherine, the vampire who made Stefan and Damon immortal… and the proximate cause of "blood feud" between brothers.

Other denizens of Mystic Falls include Elena’s best friend Bonnie Bennett (Katerina Graham), who is descended from a long line of powerful witches; Tyler Lockwood (Michael Trevino) a descendant of another founding family with a lycanthropic taint; Caroline Forbes (Candice Accola) is another of Elena’s closest friends, who finds herself with an unexpected sanguinary dietary requirement; Matt Donovan (Zach Roerig) is Elena’s ex-boyfriend, who becomes involved with Caroline. The season two cast of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES also features Matthew Davis, Sara Canning, Joseph Morgan, Susan Walters, Marguerite MacIntyre, Malese Jow, David Anders, Daniel Gillies, Kayla Ewell, Robert Pralgo, Taylor Kinney, Mia Kirshner and Bianca Lawson.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON ($70) comes to Blu-ray in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired in the show’s sophomore year: The Return, Brave New World, Bad Moon Rising, Memory Lane, Kill Or Be Killed, Plan B, Masquerade, Rose, Katerina, The Sacrifice, By The Light Of The Moon, The Descent, Daddy Issues, Crying Wolf, The Dinner Party, The House Guest, Know Thy Enemy, The Last Dance, Klaus, The Last Day, The Sun Also Rises and As I Lay Dying.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The visuals for THE VAMPIRE DIARIES maintain the darkly stylized trappings of season one, however the 1080p presentations contained on the season two set offer stronger visuals, and are better able to render the series’, dark, brooding, vampire accommodating cinematography. Of course, daylight sequences still seem to look best, offering the strongest, most detailed and well textured images. Darker sequences tend to purposely obscure detail and heighten the atmospheric horror stylings. Colors tend to be warm and yummy like a ripe Georgia peach picked on a sunny afternoon. There are very good levels of saturation when the lighting allows, but even darker moments don’t seem overly drained of color. Flesh tones look quite attractive throughout. Blacks are generally quite accurate, and the whites appear crisp. Contrast is relatively smooth. Shadow detail tends to be problematic, as the stylized cinematography allows darker visual elements to drop into the abyss, along with the blacks. The elements from which the episodes are transferred appear very clean. Grain/noise is noticeable, becoming more obvious during darker sequences.

All the episodes that comprise THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. I am glad that Warner is bringing lossless soundtracks to television product, as it does produce a warmer, richer and more rewarding listening experience. As a series, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is more spaciously mixed than many other television productions, but this isn’t to say that the sound designs don’t make some accommodations for broadcast necessities. Many moments are dialogue driven and the sound tends to be front heavy during these instances. When supernatural action or atmospherics come into play, the sound spreads out throughout the soundstage. The front channels offer very good stereo imaging, while the rears are nicely augmented with more prominent active sound effects, as well as ambient sounds and noticeable musical fill. Thanks to the lossless encodes, music sounds richer than season one, while sound effects are far more convincing and full-blooded. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and the actors' voices maintain a warm, natural timbre. Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 channel stereo soundtracks are also provided for the episodes. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, 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 supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary on the episode Masquerade with writer/executive producer Kevin Williamson and writer/executive producer Julie Plec. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Pages Of The Wolf (nineteen minutes), The Perfect Love Triangle: Vampires, Werewolves, Witches (nine minutes) and Her Own Worst Enemy: Elena, Katherine And Nina! (ten minutes). A Gag Reel entitled Second Bite and Deleted Scenes close out the standard extras. THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

Populated with an incredibly photogenic cast and maintaining a reasonably intriguing pulpy horror storyline that isn’t overwhelmed by teen angst, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES will continue to entertain its teen horror soap audience, while garnering additional converts from amongst genre fans. The Blu-ray presentations offer a marked improvement over the season one collection, in both the audio and video arenas. If you are a fan, definitely pick up the Blu-ray.


The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray] (2010)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2011 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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