The Strain, from Guillermo Del Toro, was originally a comic book series. It has been told over a few different phases so it is a lengthy and detailed story. It was picked up almost immediately by FX and has been in production as the comic series progressed. Tonight’s debut episode is a movie length and is equal parts horrific and dramatic.
The Strain begins with a simple plane ride with mostly regular folks on it flying into New York City. Everything does not go according to plan and something, or someone, attacks every passengers and crew member. Their deaths are mysterious to say the least and the Center for Disease Control is called in to investigate. What they find are a few survivors and something that none of them are ready or equipped to deal with – vampires. Not the nice Twilight or [True Blood](series:200767) vampires but the nasty, and hungry.
This is a very good debut. Del Toro does a great job taking what he does in his movies and translating them to television. It creates a cinematic experience on television and sets the bar pretty high for the series going forward. He includes his off beat blend of humor in the morgue scene and goes back and forth between character arcs to build up tension. The Strain is not a typical vampire story either. It’s a whole mystery that encompasses more than just the here and now thanks to the Abraham Setrakian character. He’s gone against this threat before and will once again face it down. However it’s an early scene in the pilot that pulls the viewer in.
The initial examination of the plane is some of the most thrilling television I’ve seen all year. Every time they discover a little more about what happened, your nerves get a little weaker. All these dead bodies alone are scary enough. Add the foreboding music and the fact that you know something sinister attacked this plane, and the chills come just from what you’ll imagine. When things to start happening and people start to move, the shock is still there. It also helps that the acting is top notch. Corey Stall and Mia Maestro are not giving us over the top slasher movie performances. That makes this a grown up show in the vein of [The Walking Dead](series:201193).
The best part of The Strain is that it does what something like The Walking Dead does not This is the beginning of the disaster. Humanity’s actual last stand. Every character has some bigger drama in their regular lives with what’s happening with the vampires acting as a backdrop. Oddly enough, this also acts as a negative. There are moments in the pilot where the shows drags a bit and feels like wasted minutes. I feel like more could have been done to develop the vampire in the casket.
The special effects and make up are sublime. The big bad vampire at the airport wreaking havoc is nasty looking. This is no doubt a Del Toro creation. The man knows his monsters and holds nothing back in this pilot. Even the little strains themselves, rendered in CGI, don’t look fake. Unlike most things, make up and practical effects are used for the vampires and victims of the attack on the plane. It is so well done. The entire scene in the morgue is pretty terrifying because of how well done the make up is.
[The Strain](series:936019) is set up for success. It will be tough for more squeamish fans to get into but if the Walking Dead can be a hit, then this should have no problem finding an audience.