Created by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Corey Stoll, ben Hyland, Natalie Brown
Guillermo del Toro is sort of a renaissance man when it comes to storytelling. He tells his stories in whatever medium he feels suits the stor5y. He’s in movies, comics, books, and now TV. The Strain made a significant splash as a limited comic book from Dark Horse and now the story is being retold on TV. There’s actually a lot of stuff to see on TV this summer and this show could accidentally slide under your radar if you don’t pay attention to FX.
The two hour premiere of The Strain does everything it needs to as far as setting up this unique approach to the vampire tale: we get the main cast and the gist of how the series will run from episode to episode. The opening act of the episode is successfully creepy with something causing an airliner to simply go dark and land. The suits are all a bit confused as to how to handle the situation. There’s no communication from inside the plane, no terrorist threats, and no cries for help. At this point in the story we meet Dr. Goodweather (yes dumb name for sure) a brilliant member of the Center for Disease Control as he takes the lead on the investigation. He and his team discover that the passengers are all dead but their bodies are not decaying as they should and they find a giant coffin filled with dirt on the plane. Mean while a mysterious old man is following the investigation on TV at first before becoming involved and he not only seems to know what is happening but he’s faced this foe before.
The production values on this premiere are really high with great creature and gore fx along with cinema quality shooting and assembly. The ensemble cast is also quite strong. The biggest problem with this episode is its length. Running 90 minutes without commercials makes the story feel drug out. Sure the episode sets out to tease us with the reveals but the tease goes on a little too long and becomes simply annoying. With that said when the first super brutal reveal happens it’s nearly worth the wait. There’s one other aspect to the series that will probably prove to be a little too common and that Good weather’s personal life. He’s allowed his job to destroy his family and in this episode he’s in therapy attempting to put things back together. Of course he has waited to late to save his marriage because his ex-wife has moved in with a new man. The characters need depth but this just seems like a very stereotypical way to build back-story that we’ve seen in these kinds of shows over and over again.
Vampire fans should remember where this story comes from and realize this will not be a typical vampire story. Many elements of the traditional vampire story are already in place by the end of the premiere but there’s much more at work here than just fangs and capes, there be monsters afoot. The show is grotesque at times, creepy at other moments, and edgy for basic cable; all good things. I haven’t read the comic so I can’t comment as to how far the show strays from the source material but so far the story is intriguing. On one side you have a doctor approaching the mystery as a biological outbreak or “strain” and on the other is this Van Helsing type of character setting out to correct a mistake from a previous battle. There’s a little Blade II feel to the proceedings which makes sense considering del Toro also directed that film. I don’t mean there’s a bad-ass dude with a sword running around killing vampires though. What I mean is that the vampires themselves, the ones that are manipulating everyone else seem like they could have come from that Blade film. Overall the set up is quite good and once the episodes are trimmed back to a more reasonable hour, or forty five minutes with commercials, the pacing should pick up enough to make them more suspenseful. Fans of del Toro should be watching this as well as fans of vampires and those of horror generally.