BY GREG CAPELLI
The horror genre in itself comes packed with clichés, rehashed ideas, remakes and predictability. Additionally, thanks to the likes of “Twilight” and “True Blood,” vampires have been transformed from terrifying evil beings into the protagonists of your little sister’s favorite romance story. “The Strain,” which premiered on FX on July 13, has proven that both horror and vampirism can be magnificently entertaining when done correctly. In “The Strain,” vampirism is spread from one master vampire, who uses parasitic worms to spread his following.
The series was birthed in 2011, when director/producer Guillermo Del Toro (“Hellboy,” “Pacific Rim”) and author Chuck Hogan co-wrote “The Strain,” stripping the concept of vampirism down to its bones and building a new breed of blood sucker. The trilogy of novels gave rise to the demand for a television adaptation, also produced by Guillermo Del Toro. This has allowed the television series to excellently match both the dark tone and character development from the novels.
It is a brilliant mix of both a horrific monster tale and a terrifying story of biological warfare. While we have yet to be formally introduced to the master vampire who pulls the strings behind the vampire biological threat, the protagonists have been displayed as extremely complex. A perfect example is Abraham Setrakin (played by David Bradley) who, through a series of flashbacks and interactions with enemy vampires, has slowly been revealed to have extensive knowledge and history with this new enemy. Slowly, Setrakin has explained to outside characters his version of the vampires, which he calls “strigoi,” and his history with the master, which began while captive during the Holocaust. A second example is seen with fan favorite Vasiliy Fet, portrayed by Kevin Durand. A NYPD rat hunter by trade, Fet first discovers the vampire infestation in the sewers of NYPD. After attempting to warn his family of the incoming threat, he discovers his co-workers killed, devoid of blood. Durand does an excellent job portraying Fet’s transformation from rational police officer to crazed strigoi killer. This complexity is one that is both realistic and humanly imperfect. As we watch some characters such as Fet and Setrakin simply declare war on the “infected,” others look for a cure. While some characters accept that this vampire menace is spreading, others refuse to believe what unfolds before them. This complexity allows viewers to relate more closely with one or more characters.
While character creation and development are excellent in “The Strain,” the series’ full strength is in its horror aspect. It is almost as if the show takes some of the best aspects of horror, such as mass hysteria from disease (from the likes of the “Walking Dead”), brutal violence of vampirism (from films such as “Blade”) and dark visuals and atmosphere. Meanwhile, “The Strain” has yet to use any of the horrible clichés of the horror genre like jump scares and stupid protagonists. During a generic horror movie, I find myself constantly yelling “don’t go in that creepy dungeon,” only to watch as the characters do just that. Meanwhile, characters on “The Strain” actually use logic. It is refreshing to see characters literally yell, “screw this!” and run from obviously sketchy situations, something that we would all do, but something that movie characters seem to never attempt.
“The Strain” has finally brought a horrific vampire to television, something that has been missing for years. This series successfully has mastered all of the most important aspects of storytelling, producing an excellent story so far. If “The Strain” continues these good habits, it will be around for a long time.