Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) and novelist Chuck Hogan have merged to create a masterpiece of a thriller in FOX’s The Strain, a televised adaptation of their co-authored trilogy of vampire novels released in 2009.
This dark horror-drama follows an investigation into a mysterious virus that causes its victims’ blood to be replaced by blood-craving creatures that resemble small worms. Based around Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City, it follows a mysterious entity that has travelled in an airplane from Berlin to New York. The plane is found with no sign of a crash, its power off, and all the passengers dead in their seats.
There are no signs of struggle or any chemical poisoning. As the episodes go on we discover four ‘survivors’ with unusually chilling symptoms, and as with any good creepy film or TV show, there’s a ghostly old guy (Professor Abraham Setrakian, played by David Bradley) who seems to know all the answers, which doesn’t prevent everyone from thinking he is crazy. He also has a heart in a jar too, just for added effect.
Bloodsucking beings may no longer be left to cheesy romance dramas as with what remains of the Twilight film series. The Strain instead paves the way for a reinvention of beautifully cinematic, perfectly creepy horror for the small screen. If you’re not one for gore, but love a chilling, well-plotted show, The Strain is for you. The show doesn’t rely on tonnes of fake blood and guts to induce a shock effect, mainly because Guillermo del Toros’ genius villains and amazing costumes, such as with the most harrowing creature named The Master, are a superb atmospheric construction without the need for exploits.
Though it premiered in July in the US, just three episodes have thus far aired in the UK, and it is already unmissable television. I completely recommend watching it weekly instead of binge watching online, as the series really benefits from the anticipated viewing experience only a seven day gap can provide. You’ll be hooked by midway through the opener “Night Zero”. From then on, The Strain will keep you on your toes since you will have fallen from the edge of your seat long ago with question marks and cryptic scenes that leave you, and Dr. Eph, craving answers.
Verdict so far: A classy mix of vampires and zombies, and I love it.
Catch The Strain on Watch, Wednesdays at 10pm.