Saturday, October 11, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—The Strain, season 1 (2014) ***

TV-MA, 13 45-min. episodes
Creators: Chuck Hogan, Guillermo del Toro

Directors: Peter Weller, David Semel, Charlotte Sieling, Phil Abraham, John Dahl, Guillermo del Toro, Guy Ferland, Keith Gordon, Deran Sarafian

Writers: Chuck Hogan, Guillermo del Toro, Justin Britt-Gibson, Regina Corrado, Carlton Cuse, Gennifer Hutchison, Bradley Thompson, David Weddle

Starring: Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Mía Maestro, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Jack Kesy, Natalie Brown, Miguel Gómez, Ben Hyland, Robin Atkins Downes, Sean Astin, Roger C. Cross, Robert Maillot, Anne Betancourt, Ruta Gedmintas

Guest starring: Daniel Kash, Drew Nelson, Nikolai Witschl, Inga Cadranel, Adrianna Barraza, Francis Capra, Leslie Hope, Jim Watson, Pedro Miguel Arce, Stephen McHattie, Regina King, Alex Paxton-Beesley

I wanted “The Strain” to be like a “Breaking Bad” for the vampire mythos. I think many people had similar expectations for the television adaptation of Chuck Hogan and Guillermo de Toro’s novel series. When it didn’t quite blow the doors off the vampire mythology, there seemed to be a good deal of disappointment. I never read the book, so I don’t know if it achieved that sort of effect for the vampire myth, but I can certainly see where any disappointment might come from.

The being said, “The Strain” is still fairly good and engaging. It might not be a fresh a take on vampires as promised, but it is enjoyable and creepy. The primary hero is a recovering alcoholic who works for the CDC and is going through custody hearings for rights to see his son. He’s brought in to investigate an incident on an international flight that arrives in New York with only four people left alive. He believes all the passengers—even the four survivors—have been infected with an extremely virulent viral strain—a worm the enters through the skin, reproduces at a rapid rate, altering the structure of the victim’s body to become a new lifeform. It’s easy to see how this new lifeform could be considered a vampire. Luckily the writers don’t try to pretend that this isn’t what they are evoking by avoiding calling them that. While a CDC official like our lead might resist the notion of calling it a vampire, even he comes around eventually.

The first few episodes of the series have quite a few references to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, but it’s obvious they are trying to combine some more modern ideas about vampires in with his classic definitions. After a while though, that fades and it becomes a fairly standard apocalyptic survival story. A good one, with characters I enjoy and even some humor to keep it all from getting to be too much. I’m very happy with Kevin Durand’s presence as the rat catcher. He has some particularly funny moments in the last few episodes.

While it wasn’t the event I’d hoped for, it was good horror and good television, however. I will be on board for season 2 next year.

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