Demons - Season One Blu-ray Review
Well, this is a major disappointment, folks.
The packaging states that Demons has a 1080i transfer and the resulting 1.78:1 image is, indeed, less than stellar. Considerably less at times. Now, despite my best intentions and the continual urging of my son, I never actually managed to catch any of these episodes on TV, so I really cannot say how much this transfer improves on them, or if it improves on them at all. Whilst colours are strong - blood, sickly green glows, clothing, demonic manifestations, sets etc - the contrast fluctuates between episodes and often between scenes or individual shots to quite an annoying degree. The grainy texture of the source is also inconsistent. Some shots can be horribly suffused with murky noise, whilst others - and, admittedly, most of them - can be pretty clear. Sharpness is also wildly variable. There are some terrifically clear and sharp moments, which tend to be bright daylight external scenes or the odd monstrous close-up - the weird monkey-thing, Redlips coughing-up an ectoplasmic fur-ball, Mina syphoning-off some of her blood. But a lot of darker moments when characters are creeping about sinister places, the image becomes washed-out, stippled with anaemic clouds of grey as opposed to the proper inky blacks and just ends up looking like a poor TV broadcast. Slow-filtering can be seen taking place in the darker areas, too. But, as I say, inconsistency is the order of the day, and there can, at random, be some terrific blacks and cool shadow-play scattered about the series.
Forgivably, given its roots, the show looks flat, so don't go expecting much in the way of depth and three-dimensionality. Detail can be okay - the smudge of a female vamp's lipstick is clearly on show, spots and scars and shaving-rashes are also revealed - and the image can become quite vivid during some of the action scenes. But background detail is soft and indistinct - trust me, I scrutinised the shot of Sara Stewart's sexy Prof. Lambert as she reveals some luscious thighs in patterned stockings whilst up a ladder in a library, and the long-shot is very disappointing indeed. Buildings and set design have flashes of finite information, but nothing more. The city skyline looks terrible, with blooming whites, edge enhancement and a complete lack of detail. And, on the subject of edge enhancement, the disc seems to think that Glenister's trousers need it as, more often than not, that is where it was most prominent. Certain bits look great, though. The Harpy-dragon-woman in Episode 5 looks wonderfully rich and vivid when morphed into a ball of billowing flame, for example. And the monkey-gremlin is a fascinating little design - though overtly CG - when seen in close-up.
Overall, Demons has a very poor video transfer - I don't even know what codec was used as the Samsung wouldn't divulge any information and the disc packaging remains tight-lipped, too. With only rare instances when the picture approaches anything even remotely near what could could be termed high definition, this release gets a resounding thumbs-down from me, I'm afraid.
The disappointment is further compounded by the disc's audio. Revealing another lack of interest in their product, Sony have only provided Demons with a bog-standard 2-channel stereo mix. Now, it is arguable just how much a show like this, with its television roots, would benefit from a surround remix, but I'm willing to bet that something with screams, creepy effects, gunshots and demon-battling probably would benefit from a more involving and atmospheric track than the one supplied here.
As it goes, I found that I had to raise the volume quite a bit for it to reach a comfortable level. That irritating title song bubbles along well enough but the mix of each episode can be as variable as the image. Dialogue sometimes loses presence and clarity, the spread across the front is lacking in vitality and depth, and about the only thing that has any sort of consistency is the score, which isn't a bad thing.
Bass levels aren't really pushed and the myriad impacts, during the frequent fight scenes, for example, may sound jacked-up, but they don't sound at all natural or convincing. Effects that could have enjoyed more steerage and separation remain flat and uninvolving, which can't be good considering the type of show this is.
Well, that's about all I can bothered saying about the disc's audio, folks. Given that we are routinely exposed to full 5.1 for TV shows on SD disc, let alone their hi-def equivalents, this patently tells us that the studio has kicked the release into touch.
Hmmm ... nothing whatsoever. Sony don't seem to care much about this, do they?
Demons may rattle along quite nicely as a one-disc, six-part serial but, come the finale, I wasn't exactly left hankering after any more. The annoying elements that dogged the concept all the way through, but you found you were able to let slide, sort of come back to haunt you when you sit back and analyse the show in the cold light of day. There is a fledgling amount of overarching mythology, but it's vagueness is neither clever nor tantalising. This show needs to be upfront about its universe and the apparent conflicts therein because the quality of the writing is often sub-par, even for a genre that can sometimes be as risible as most of the Russell T. Davies-written Doctor Who stories.
The acting, with the exception of Glenister (of all people) is perfectly acceptable and the FX work is certainly good enough when it isn't depending on lousy CG. But the slavish ripping-off of so many other shows is, ultimately, unforgivable and the formulaic approach to the material is more akin to a low-budget, straight-to-disc genre movie. And would certainly be more acceptable in such a light. When the makers, themselves, aren't sure who they are aiming at with their script, it is not surprising that they keep missing the target.
The AV quality is barely hi-definition at all. Although I haven't watched the SD version, I truly cannot imagine that this outshines it by much. And with no extras at all to sweeten the deal, it really boils down to whether or not you are a fan of the series. Those with a more casual interest in the genre may want to sidestep this one entirely. Personally, I wanted to love this. My eight-year old son does, but even he holds Primeval in much, much higher regard. Demons lets itself down far too often and the impression given by this release is that Sony just couldn't wait to dump the series on to disc and then wash their hands of it.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £29.99
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