The Vampire Diaries: Season 1 review (DVD)

Swamped in the midst of all the vampire books, TV shows and films it’s hard not to drown, but The Vampire Diaries successfully manages to swim. Of the three new shows America’s CW network picked up last year, The Vampire Diaries was the only one to make it through to series two (The Beautiful Life was cancelled after a mere three episodes, while the revamped Melrose Place lasted out the series before being axed).

Based on the book series of the same name, the show follows Elena (Dobrev) as she grieves for the loss of her parents, while falling in love with non-human-blood-drinking vampire Stefan (Wesley), and tries to keep his brother Damon (Somerhalder) under control. He has the unfortunate but common vampire tendency of murdering humans. Proving to be very addictive viewing, the series improves with each episode, building up to a very impressive finale.

The Salvatore brothers return to Mystic Falls for different reasons, Stefan is drawn to Elena and Damon not only to wreak havoc on the town and mess with Stefan, but to free Katherine (their love interest from 1864) from the tomb he believes she is trapped in (she’s not). Damon also makes a great entrance, he’s preceded by a crow and eerie fog. Hey, it’s enough to spook me when watching the show by myself at night!

The script is sharp and very witty, with quips like ‘I do believe in killing the messenger. Know why? It sends a message’; ‘It's cool not growing old. I like being the eternal stud’ and ‘Why do I need to pee? I thought I was dead.’ Mix this in with teen angst, broody stares from Stefan ‘like out of a romance novel’, screwed up brother Jeremy turning to drugs and attracting vamp girls, perky but insecure best friend Caroline, and the other best friend Bonnie who discovers she has supernatural powers on par with Willow from Buffy – let’s hope she turns evil like Willow, now that was a good plotline.

Things quickly get out of control in Mystic Falls as Damon unleashes the tomb of vampires on the town (sans Katherine, who makes her debut in the finale), Stefan gets hooked on human blood, Elena discovers she’s not only adopted but a descendent of Katherine (no way!) and her birth mother is now a (mean) vampire, more deaths than any other show can possibly rack up and we fall in love with Damon who’s really just a very good looking softy with a broken heart. I started out hating Damon, I mean how dare he try and ruin Stefan and Elena’s Twilight-esque relationship. By the end, I’m almost rooting for him and Elena to get together. I jumped off the couch with a cheer of joy in the finale when they finally kiss, cue gasp-out-loud moment when I realised it was actually Katherine. Followed by more gasps as she stabs Elena’s ‘uncle’, the town practically burns to a crisp, Jeremy overdoses on pills and does a shot of vampire blood, Stefan kills his father and then feeds on him (in 1843) and then there’s the massacre Bonnie enabled – I couldn’t believe it when sweet little vampire Anna was staked. Poor Jeremy, yet another person he loves dies – will this guy ever catch a break?! Expect a serious case of wet eyes in the moving scene where Katherine is taken from the brothers back in 1843, and just the shear emotion invoked during the last episode.

It’s exactly what you’d look for in a teen vampire dramedy, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat right through to the last second, leaving you hungry for more. High school issues, century old prejudices, gorgeous lead characters, death, destruction, love and 1843 flashbacks (oh the outfits!) – what’s not to love?!

EXTRAS ★★★ Deleted scenes and commentary – pretty good and the deleted scenes actually add a little extra insight to the characters. 

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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