Well written, well produced and more importantly, well thought out. What else would you expect from the brilliant Guillermo del Toro? From the guy who brought you 'Hellboy' and 'Mama' you know you're in for a treat. I will admit, this show caught me unawares despite the fact that it's based on a lot of ongoing (comic book and novel) source material - I've got a lot to catch up on. And here I assumed this would be just another 'Contagion' infecting my screen, but I was pleasantly surprised by the uniqueness of 'The Strain'. The show capitalises on the classic horror elements of tension and anxiety keeping you in suspense, and balances it with the mystery and intrigue of the bigger picture kept hidden in the ominous shadows.
The Strain is the embodiment of 'Blade', combining the struggles of '28 Days Later' and the impending threat of 'World War Z'
The Strain follows the story of Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of New York's CDC (Centre for Disease Control) division. He and his team are sent to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with ancient origins. With the help of moral conscious Nora (Mia Maestro), vampire expert Abraham (David Bradley) and others that are willing to help, the group must adapt to this new threat and fight back to prevent the end of humanity itself.
To me the best quality to The Strain is that the premise might be a science-fiction 'what if?' scenario, but it is portrayed in a way that is realistic and not over-exaggerated. This way I can fully immerse myself in the fictional world in front of me and engage with the unfolding story as if I could walk a mile in the characters' shoes. In my books, del Toro and Hogan did this very well by approaching it from the CDC angle compared to using 'magic' or some other convoluted nonsense as the cause.
However, if this biologic epidemic angle bores you, don't worry there are still the core elements that make it a horror worth watching and leaving you wanting more. What keeps a horror fanatic going through all the tiresome parts is the fear of the unknown and what could emerge from the dark corners at any given moment. The Strain is constantly giving off this vibe by slowly leading and teasing the viewer about what's going to happen next. Following suit from other horrors, it still keeps with the occasional heavy themes of violence and gore. Its even gone as far as merging other aspects of the genre's monsters together, including werewolves, zombies and of course vampires. I suppose this reinvents Alucard as the most badass creature to ever live!
I wouldn't call The Strain a straight textbook horror though because it is so much more than that.
I'd encourage you not to be deterred by the played to death zombie plague concept as I also was to begin with. Give the first couple episodes a watch just to see what it's all about for yourself and who knows it might be the new show you'll binge watch. It was for me and is the reason why I recommend watching it.