What I'm Watching: The Strain
Hey look, I did it! Two in a row! And this one is current events! AND tv! Don't do enough of that...
ANYways, The Strain!
It's no surprise that I'd give a horror show by Guillermo Del Toro a shot, considering my love of Pacific Rim, and Hellboy, and so many other things.
The Strain focuses on an aircraft that is mysteriously attacked from within, touching upon modern fears, and tapping into that zeitgeist. It's made all the more palpable after recent events in the Ukraine, and the timing is downright creepy. But I digress.
A lot of horror deals with our fears, and shit going wrong on airplanes is a big deal in the last decade, and this plays into them well. Fortunately, rather than a bombing or crashing, it's a viral outbreak, which also ties in well with our fears of disease. The two dovetail well with each other to create something of a mystery that we don't see very often, since the days of Fringe.
The mystery slowly unfolds, but any horror fan should be quick to pick up on some familiar bits of lore, and I love those little touches. So yeah, we're pretty much dealing with vampires, but they are not your familiar bloodsuckers. They are also most emphatically NOT prettyboy sparkling love interests. Which is so welcome, for me.
We've seen the 'vampire as virus' idea played out in other places, and it's a natural fit with the whole blood angle, but The Strain takes things to this whole other level with details and science rarely seen in stories before this, and still manages to make their vampires stand out in a crowded field. These harken back more towards the Nosferatu type, while picking up on details from Stoker's novel, and the more classical lore, while not relying on it heavily. These creatures are entirely their own thing with just enough familiar DNA (Ahem) with the classics to please the big time horror fans.
Also pleasing to the big time horror fans are the use of scares and blood in the show. There's not a lot, but what there is, well...they say go big or go home, and The Strain goes big. The pilot episode slowly draws you in with flashes and teases for over half the extended running time, and then explodes for a few seconds of bloody ultraviolence when the main creature strikes. It's well paced and does a great job laying things out before that moment, and it strikes at a perfect moment and works as a great reveal.
I'm also quite pleased that this is a series, and not a movie, because the expanded format gives us great character moments where we can just sit down and have our leads talk about their lives, and get involved in widely unrelated things, all for the sake of building these people up and getting into their personalities in more ways than a shorter runtime would allow.
I can't give this anything but one of my strongest recommendations. I'm intrigued to see where things go, it's pleasing to old horror fans, while still delivering something new and doesn't feel stale. There's a lot here to like, and while it doesn't lay the groundwork of possibilities that something like Sleepy Hollow's pilot did, this is well-crafted from the ground up, by some masters of the genre.
The biggest shame in all this is Syfy's "Helix". Sorry, but a WAY better horror based medical outbreak drama just came along, guys! And I enjoyed Helix, so no slight against it. The Strain just blew it out of the Arctic.