Review: The Strain premier
Cast:David Bradley, Sean Astin, Corey Stoll et. al
The Strain is, for those in the know (horror readers, comic book aficionados), the most anticipated premier of the season. There hasn’t been a great deal of hype for it mainstream wise and FX has relied on word of mouth to do the hype for them. In truth the show should hype itself quite easily, the story was conceived by Guillermo del Toro and is based on his bestselling trilogy and has also been made into a successful comic by Dark Horse and it contains vampires. Other shows that have been as long awaited i.e. Game of Thrones and Walking Dead have been the blockbusters that the networks expected and The Strain is posed to do the same.
The story itself opens in New York City where a plane from Berlin has stopped on the tarmac. There are no signs of life, the shutters are drawn and the plane itself is cold. Government agencies clamor to control the situation, but the CDC have dibs on the mystery. Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Stoll), your typical divorced, ex-alcoholic anti-hero, takes charge together with his team. They find only four survivors inside, while the deaths of the rest of the 200 plus passengers is at first completely dumbfounding. The tale becomes more twisting when a coffin-like box is found in the cargo hold and it’s filled with dirt. Now they need to hinder the spreading of whatever the disease is that killed the passengers, but they are clearly unaware of what they are trying to stop.
In New York City an apparently dying man is waiting for the cargo that the plane is carrying for his own purposes and add to this a van Helsing type older man who is getting ready for a final confrontation with an ancient enemy and you have a perfect setting for a great series.
For those who have read the books or the comics it may feel nice to see that, at least, the first episode follows the original story closely, with some minor skips in the narrative.
With the success of American Horror Story FX has almost been given carte blanche to do whatever they please with The Strain, since AHS broke down the door on eroticism and horror there is little that the new show can do to shock the viewers. This does leave open the chance to focus on the story and this is very nice.
There are a few things that The Strain have working for them. Not only is there a very interesting story to build from here. del Toror’s books take the classic vampire and create something new around it. Just like he did with Blade he changes things around just enough to make it original, but not too much so that the horror crowd has something to gripe over. The vampires of The Strain are not your debonaire, well dressed Nosferatu of Anne Rice or glowing teenagers of Twilight; they are as terrifying and ugly as living dead bloodsuckers should be. It is clear to any true reader of vampire fiction that del Toro knows his literary history and respects it.
The cast of the show also seems to be very well chosen, there aren’t any of the bigger names to overshadow the content or any other cast members, it is an ensemble effort, with some actors that the viewer might recognize to give that secure sense of that these guys are good at what they do. The show also has the ability to keep a good pace, unlike counterparts like Walking Dead that has yet to end its run as a comic book and might therefore cause issues when it comes to plan out the length of the series. The Strain books and comics have a clear end and there can then be a long term plan for how the show should be set, giving it much needed balance, something that the Walking Dead suffers from, where the show drags mid-season. With FX as the network the show avoids the most disturbing of images or explicit content. It hints at it and shows enough skin to entice the senses without becoming vulgar or having nudity for nudity’s sake. It’s a smart move and gives parents the reassurance that the show might be scary, but not disturbing.
Overall The Strain might just be the hit of the summer and it would seem that if they stay their course and don’t deviate from the story too much it might run for many seasons, but it would be wise for FX to have the end planned and not to drag it out, because that would only hurt it.
The Strain airs on Sundays on FX