Case Number 19585


Warner Bros. // 2009 // 925 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 31st, 2010

The Charge

Not Twilight.

Opening Statement

No, seriously. This isn't Twilight.

Facts of the Case

Two brothers: Stefan (Paul Wesley, Cloud 9) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder, Lost). They're both dark, mysterious, dashing and drink blood to stay alive. That's right: they're vampires, turned to their life of night-crawling in 1864. However, the two took dramatically divergent paths; Stefan opting for a life of restraint, while Damon indulges his diabolical impulses.

Descending upon the town of Mystic Falls, Virginia -- a hamlet with a deep history of supernatural shenanigans -- Stefan happens upon Elena (Nina Dobrev, Chloe), a beautiful teenager who also happens to be a dead ringer for the vampire seductress who drove the brothers crazy almost 150 years ago.

Let the angst begin!

The Evidence

Oh yes, The Vampire Diaries is angst-ridden. It's also well-paced, well-acted (Somerhalder brings it), surprisingly violent, dark, gritty, and frankly engrossing. If you had told me this time last year that I'd be writing these words about what seemed like a transparent cash-in attempt by The CW on all things vampire, I may have just staked you in the heart with a broken pool cue.

The Vampire Diaries is legit. Like virtually all new shows, it takes some time to warm up, and the first batch of episodes are rife with high school melodrama, feeling a lot like...well, your usual CW show. But once the characters are established and the relationships are settled, the storytelling shifts into thriller status, building up an engaging mythology, while moving away from the teeny-bopper drama.

There's still enough brooding to fill an oil tanker, what with Elena and Stefan's torrid romance and some side plots involving non-vampire high school kids (who, of course, look like college RA's), but the guts of the show is about the town's history, the motivation behind Damon's return, and the resurgence of the vampire threat. To the writers' credit, the stories don't linger; plotlines are quickly resolved and it's onto the next thing, giving the series an energetic feel (lacking in the beginning) that makes it easy to tell yourself -- fine, one more episode before bedtime.

And, in case I haven't mentioned it, this isn't Twilight. It's not even fair to call it "inspired" by Twilight, because the books that the series is based on came out in 1991. Granted, The CW got the ball rolling because vampires are all the rage, but if the result is a slick and satisfying series, who cares what the motivations are?

I'm sure the suits are happy enough that a 33 year-old guy enjoys their vampire show, but this show is built for a different crew. So here's an interview with the teenaged daughter of a family friend, the true target demographic.

DVD Verdict: How is The Vampire Diaries different from Twilight?

Audrey: The acting is so much better, in my opinion. The script isn't cheesy and not focused on just the romance or the physical features of the male vampires. They have way more characters to develop in this show, so you don't get bored with just the two main characters.

DVD Verdict: If someone hates Twilight, do you think they might like Vampire Diaries?

Audrey: I think it is definitely possible, because like I said, Twilight is mainly focused on the male vampire's build and all his good looks, where Vampire Diaries is not. There is romance in this show, but the action and violence balances it out.

DVD Verdict: What do you like most about Vampire Diaries?

Audrey: I like the cliffhangers at the end of each episode. They always leave you hanging, and it makes it almost impossible not to watch the next episode. I thought it was pretty addicting, from the beginning.

DVD Verdict: Of the two brothers, who is your favorite, and why?

Audrey: I like Damon more because he's the "bad guy," but his character really develops throughout the season, and he changes his moods around a lot so his character makes the show really unpredictable. Stefan is sort of just the good vampire who just focuses on protecting the girl he likes. So I like Damon's originality.

DVD Verdict: How would you convince a boy who might think the show is too lame to watch Vampire Diaries?

Audrey: Well, I know almost all boys completely despise the Twilight series, so I would probably just say that there is obviously going to be romance in the show but it has a much darker side to it. The violence can be pretty intense, so that might attract boys. I think if I could convince him to watch a few episodes, there would be a good chance he might enjoy it.

Warner Bros. drops a top-notch Blu-ray set, fronted by a razor-sharp 1.78:1 1080p widescreen that maintains its intense clarity even through the show's numerous dark sequences. When the camera pulls back to soak in the small town vibe, the picture quality is even more impressive, pushing out the detail and color with energy. This is visual work that makes the HD upgrade worth it. Sound comes from a serviceable, standard-issue Dolby 5.1 mix. Extras: commentary on the pilot episode; HD featurettes on the development of the show, the universe's fanbase, the casting process, and the show's vampire mythology; a gag reel, deleted scenes, "A Darker Truth" Webisodes, and a downloadable audiobook of the novel The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening (which is a pretty cool feature).

The Rebuttal Witnesses

This is a fairly humorless show. Damon provides some decent macabre one-liners, but the comic relief is virtually AWOL. Even when there are layups to be had with the vamps talking about the old days, the writers forgo the gags, eager to move onto more brooding.

Closing Statement

Don't be turned off just because you're feeling undead overload; these guys have b...No, I'm not going to say "bite." I'm not that big of a hack. I will say they certainly don't su...Nope, not doing that either. How about this: The Vampire Diaries is good, and the Blu-ray set is great.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. See you at Hot Topic!

Review content copyright © 2010 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 85
Extras: 90
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 925 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Gag Reel
* Webisodes
* Audiobook

* IMDb

* Official Site