Blu-Ray Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Anna Paquin as SOOKIE STACKHOUSE
    Stephen Moyer as BILL COMPTON
    Sam Trammell as SAM MERLOTTE
    Ryan Kwanten as JASON STACKHOUSE
    Rutina Wesley as TARA THORNTON

    Rated TV-MA
    Studio: HBO

    Created by: Alan Ball

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In recent months, vampires have “come out of the coffin” and revealed themselves to society at large. Now, they are trying to integrate into mainstream culture, and it’s become a shock to many people. In the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, a waitress named Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) falls in love with the first vampire to move into town. She has her own oddity as well, which allows her to psychically hear other people’s thoughts.

At the same time, a serial killer is brutally killing women who have had sexual encounters with vampires, and Sookie soon finds herself a target. Her vampire boyfriend Bill (Stephen Moyer) helps try to uncover the mystery while dealing with the prejudices and anger the humans in Bon Temps have for his kind.

After dealing with all the hype and hubbub that came through the media with last year’s soft vampire love story “Twilight,” it’s nice to see a show that actually has some teeth to it. The vampire storyline in “True Blood” is actually quite fascinating, revealing the darker side of human nature and holding up a mirror to the audience to reveal our own prejudices. (Additionally, we soon discover that not all of those prejudices are unfounded, and we must also question our blind devotion to all forms of equality, human or otherwise.)

Ever since Anne Rice romanticized vampires with her books in the 1970s and beyond, I have become disenchanted with the entire genre. What used to be creepy, deadly creatures from the 1960s and before have now become artists and poets, moping around in their own misery. I find it deliciously ironic that another Louisiana-based vampire story has breathed new life into these traditional monsters.

“True Blood” is oddly realistic, providing a potentially accurate portrayal of the “species” and what would happen if it did reveal itself to the general public. Unlike Rice’s abstinent vamps, the vampires in this series love sex as much as they love blood, which makes for a very visceral, dynamic and sensual show. It’s a relief that this production is made through HBO, which offers much more relaxed standards.

The characters in “True Blood” are not always likeable. In fact, with the possible exception of Sookie herself (who does admittedly fall into the annoying damsel in distress mode at times), everyone seems to have a dark side, and HBO is not afraid to explore that.

“True Blood” offers a variety of genres in one show – horror, romance, drama and crime thriller – and it brings back the heyday of original programming that the network had in the 1990s.

Like other cable-based edgy shows, the most interesting characters are those in the main roles. Sookie and Bill’s relationship captures my interest the best. Other characters, like Sookie’s brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and her forlorn boss Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) have only so-so storylines when they aren’t crossing paths with the supernatural. Sookie’s friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) has possibly the best storyline outside of the vampires, although she often takes a back seat.

Actually, some of the other supporting characters, like Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and the slutty fang lovers (who often get naked for the camera, which is always a plus in my book), have neat stories, although they aren’t always fully explored.

Finally, the other criticism I have is that being a cable show, it has a BBC-esque short season of only twelve episodes. I would have enjoyed it better if we could get more blood from the season.

The five-disc Blu-Ray set comes with six audio commentaries on the episodes, sometimes featuring more than one track per episode and including series creator Alan Ball and actors Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer.

However, what makes this Blu-Ray set a must-watch release is the “Enhanced Viewing” feature, which takes full advantage of the branching Blu-Ray technology. Each episode can be watched in this mode and features a range of special features embedded in the show itself.

The “Enhanced Viewing” feature links out to short vampire documentaries, commercials and fake PSAs for the Vampire Rights Act. There are also hints to the secrets behind the story that pop up on screen during play. Lafayette gets a bigger role in this mode with short snippets played over the episode in which he explains character background and motivations.

Other elements of “Enhanced Viewing” are animated maps of Bon Temps and the surrounding communities and short behind-the-scenes documentaries.

People who want more vampire in their vampire movies.

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