The Strain – No Sparkling Allowed (Review, Part 1)
Note: As we transition into the swing of the fall TV season, we’re going to do a bit of catch-up on some of the recent shows that have take to air in our vein. Starting with the season premiere of Doctor Who, we’ll be reviewing shows on an episode-by-episode basis.
Several years ago, Guillermo Del Toro created a world in the early throes of a vampire apocalypse. He wanted it to be a movie but finding no takers he teamed up with author Chuck Hogan and moved them to book form. The Strain trilogy resulted and was printed during the 2007-2009 onslaught of undead apocalypse media (The Walking Dead, True Blood, Twilight et al.).
Books, shows and movies like Twilight and True Blood feature sexy vampires acting like humans with a rare-meat fetish and a moderate to severe sunlight allergy. While violent, those vampires were toned down – muted by their humanity. The vampires in The Strain suffer none of these restraints.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR
A flight lands at JFK airport and goes dark. No communications, no lights, nothing. The CDC in the form of Dr. Ephram Goodweather (Eph from here on out) and his team are called in to look for potentially hazardous bio-weapons. They find all of the passengers dead and drained of blood. The pilot “wakes up” along with three passengers as the CDC prepares to leave the plane. They’re sent to quarantine. During their investigation of the cargo, the CDC open a large intricately carved wooden box only to find it filled with soil. They order the airport shut down. As this happens, a giant buzzing cloaked shadow is shown killing a JFK employee and fleeing into the night.
Meanwhile, Gus, a Hispanic gang-banger is paid by an odd looking German man named Eichorst to drive a truck from the locked down airport to an address in Manhattan. He’s given access to the locked area of the airport, a “Stoneheart Group” ID badge and he’s instructed not to investigate his cargo – the large box Eph had investigated. As he attempts to leave the airport Jim, one of Eph’s team members, (played by Sean Astin) waves him through. It’s shown later that the Stoneheart Group has bought Jim’s loyalty by getting his wife into an exclusive cancer treatment.
Eph and team are confronted by an old man named Setrakian who has knowledge of the incident he couldn’t possibly know. He asks if they’ve burned the bodies and receives a disgusted look from Eph and team in response. Setrakian tells them the spread can be contained if the bodies are burned. He’s ignored.
Gus delivers the box to the appointed address and flees the location after receiving a scare. Not long after the terminally ill head of the Stoneheart Group, Eldritch Palmer and Gus’ employer Eichorst meet the giant buzzing cloaked shadow – referred to as The Master. Eichorst and The Master have promised Palmer eternal life in return for meeting their needs, delivering this box to Manhattan being the first need. Palmer is dying from a number of ailments and will do anything – including unleash a vampire apocalypse on the world – to stay alive.
End Review, Part 1
9/10 – FX has done several outstanding series (Justified, American Horror Story) and the Strain looks like another hit. The acting is great; the story is a “realistic” New York setting including weasley politicians, brutal violence and disturbing images and, most importantly, the vampires don’t sparkle. Given the dearth of good Vampire material right now, The Strain is a must-watch for anyone who enjoys the horror genre.