Revel in ‘The Strain’

Ripe from the minds of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain thus far is a slow burning thriller whose focus upon the human heart will undoubtedly intrigue viewers. As with the first book this series is based upon, the show starts as an unresponsive Boeing 777 lands at JFK Airport with seemingly dead passengers. Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (the story’s main protagonist) and Dr. Nora Martinez of the CDC are called to investigate. Upon boarding the plane, the two find a flight filled with passengers suffering from an unknown biological malady. The passengers’ eventual release begins the countdown towards the end of humanity — orchestrated by an ancient vampire known as The Master.

Promo poster for The Strain. Graphic from IMDb
Promo poster for The Strain. Graphic from IMDb

Much like the original trilogy, the main attraction behind this series is its brutality and reinterpretation of vampirism through biology. The latter is enough to set this series apart from its predecessors. Without revealing too much, victims of this disease experience their bodies corroding in order to establish new organs for feeding. This occurs in a very rapid and Lovecraft-like way, which will disgust viewers, while simultaneously triggering their curiosity. As intriguing as it is, this series is not by any means dependent upon or hurt by traditional horror tropes involving gore.

As the story progresses, those who are infected search for, and eventually drain their loved ones. This perversion of affection is driven by The Master’s will. The very idea of love being something worth striving for, yet binding is a concept that’s often used in this show. One scene involving an infected girl returning to her distraught father is particularly haunting. Ultimately, this idea strengthens the image of vampires being a metaphor for the mortality of humanity.

Del Toro’s influence upon the cinematography is clear and makes even the most distressing scenes beautiful. As a series that thrives upon a sense of hysteria, his and other’s shooting techniques greatly advances the immersion level. All of the key moments from the first book not only gain more weight for being translated into TV language, but draws alternative responses for the way it’s shot. As any creator knows, too much of any effect might produce an indifferent audience. Because of this, peppered throughout the show are additions of music and humor to add balance.

Unfortunately, because of the format of this show, one isn’t given enough time with certain characters. Thus, it is somewhat difficult to understand and even care for said characters (with exceptions such as Abraham Setrakian). Shortly thereafter, the very same characters you wish to see fleshed out more, become outweighed by the strange and creative nature of The Strain’s epidemic. For those who haven’t previously read the book trilogy, this might be enough incentive to give up on the show. That being said, after the first three episodes, character details are exposed that should capture the public’s attention once again.

Despite a potential absence for concern at first, and The Master’s ridiculously designed face, del Toro’s and Hogan’s brilliant work so far has found the right home with FX.

Prepare for The Strain. Graphic from ScreenCrush.