I just watched the first episode of The Strain, which was directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pacific Rim) and right off the bat, before the show even started, I got pissed off about something. I don’t have cable, so in order to see these shows, I buy them from iTunes. I figured since the price was only $1.99 for an episode that was directed by the great del Toro himself, that’s a pretty good deal, right?
But wait, although I paid $1.99 to watch this POS (more on that later) I still got an ad from FX! Yes, it was an ad about another series called Tyrant. And for the record, you can’t fast-forward past it, you HAVE to watch the frigging ad. This is one of my pet peeves–if I pay for something, I really shouldn’t get advertising on top of it, right? It’s why I don’t have cable TV; I got tired of having nonstop ads continuously stuffed down my throat while still paying $145.00 a month just for that privilege.
But, anyway, let’s get to the show.
Ha, you actually thought this would be good? Sucker! No, I mean the dude next to me. Who do you think I was referring to?
The Strain, based on the books by del Toro and Chuck Hogan, basically retells the story of Dracula. Instead of traveling to England aboard the ship Demeter, this regurgitated version of Drac travels to New York City aboard a 777 wide body passenger jet, and then promptly drinks everybody dry on the jet before they even had a chance to dock at the airport.
Never mind the fact that a mystery involving an airplane loaded with dead passengers has been done before (and much better) on Fringe, but the story logic here just doesn’t work: because if this Master Vampire really wanted a foothold in the New World, you’d think he would wait before snacking down on a few people until he was safely in the country.
And, really, why come in through New York City, after all? There’s plenty of unprotected coastline up and down South and Central America for a Master Vampire to slip through. But, ok…this is basically del Toro’s updating of the Dracula legend, right? Ok, so we’ll cut him some slack on this, because The Strain just gets better as it goes on, right?
No, nuh-uh…it doesn’t.
Hey, you dead? I think this guy’s dead. Let’s take off these funky suits, now, ok?
Corey Stoll stars as a CDC expert who’s called in to investigate the plane, and at first he does this smartly, fully clad in a hazmat suit with its own air supply. Cool. But what’s not cool is the giant coffin-like box that they find aboard the plane. The box is not on the plane’s manifest, nobody knows what the hell it is or what’s in it. So Stoll, along with several others, just open the damn thing without any protective gear whatsoever–even though they suspect it might have something to do with the deaths of the passengers on the plane!
In this day and age, you’d think they would treat every item from the plane, especially an unknown item like this, with the most extreme caution. They’re dealing with a possible contagion here, which is why the CDC was called in in the first place, right? But oh no, caution is for weenies, let’s just crack open this big, ominous box and see what’s inside!
In addition to cardboard cutout characters who do stupid things just to advance the not-very-well-thought-out plot, the episode overall is just extremely hoary and predictable. We have the Van Helsing character, played by David Bradley, who runs to the airport and starts screaming about how they need to cut the heads off the dead bodies, and right quick (just before he gets arrested)! Oh yeah, real slick move there, fearless vampire hunter….
My deceased wife’s heart is always close to me…no really, it’s in the jar right here.
It’s as if del Toro was trying to update the vampire legend by forcing the 19th century story aspects into the 21st century, and doing a really horrible job, because…you know, who cares about the details, right? But even the wildest flights of fantasy require some grounding in reality in order to be properly accepted by the reader/viewer.
A far superior updating of the vampire lore in book form is Justin Cronin’s fantastic series of novels that begins with The Passage. And if you’re looking for a far better TV series in the same vein, look no further than Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, which does a superb job of updating the classic monsters while still setting them in the 19th century (and it features an outstanding performance by the always good Eva Green).
As far as The Strain is concerned, no thanks. One helping of this steaming pile of idiocy is more than enough for me. I’ll pass.