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Monday, July 14, 2014

TV Review: The Strain

The horror/thriller genre is on the rise on prime-time Cable TV with the success of series like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. The newest series, The Strain, which premiered Sunday, July 13th on the FX Network, is based on the horror/thriller novel series written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.The Strain explores the age-old vampire genre with a modern virus-outbreak twist. It promises to be the newest Sunday night thrill, possibly even competing with the return of AMC's The Walking Dead in October.
When a Boeing 777 from Berlin to New York goes dark on the runway at JFK airport, the authorities contact Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the CDC team in New York City to investigate. Along with his partners Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin) the team find all but four out of over 200 passengers alive on the plane that died from an unknown biological agent. The team also discover a strange, large, carved, wooden box in the cargo hold filled with soil. The only explanation come from the supposed ravings of an elderly pawn-shop owner named Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) with talk of vampires! In the next 24 hours Dr. Goodweather and his team will come face-to-face with the most virulent plague in the history of the world that threatens to destroy the entire human race!
Writer/director Guillermo del Toro and author Chuck Hogan serve as both co-creators, executive producers and writers for The Strain, also co-writing the pilot script for the show, which was also directed by del Toro. Emmy Award winning writer and producer Carlton Cuse (Bates MotelLost) serves as executive producer and writer. The Strain is a "high-concept thriller" based on the trilogy of books which have already gained popularity and even a series of comic book adaptations from Dark Horse Comics. Director Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to the vampire genre with his films such as Blade II (2002) and Cronos (1993) and bringing the new virology element to the vampire myth. So far, the show follows the books fairly closely however there are a few added elements to the characters as well as the plot and a somewhat lack of attention to the solar eclipse which occurs in the beginning of the first book yet has little to no mention in the first show other than a brief glimpse of an advertisement in the airport. The casting for The Strain compliments both their book versions as well as their comic book adaptations. While the surprising casting of Sean Astin as Jim Kent, a somewhat minor character in the book, may reveal a possible stronger role in the TV series. The major focus of the virus outbreak is on the mysterious "blood worms" which appear in much of the shows promotional material, which from a fan's point-of-view of the books, appear much bigger than they seemed in the books. The brief yet satisfying glimpse of 'The Master', the head vampire, is equally impressive and terrifying along with the character of Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) is a perfect match. With the modern setting of the series mixed with the fascination of vampires provides a fresh view on the vampire genre which has been redundantly dominated by the more teenage/sparkly variety of vamp from the popularity of the Twilight books and movies, as well as in TV with shows like The Vampire Diaries and it's spin-off The Originals. As a fan of the books and comics, I've been looking forward to the premiere of The Strain for quite a while now, and upon seeing the Pilot, I have no doubt that this series will soon take off and add a whole new level of terror and anticipation to Sunday prime-time! The Strain has spread...