Wednesday 6 August 2014

Guillermo Del Toro's "The Strain"- Geek Girl Review

By Marie Victoria Robertson

We may be starting to break free of the Twilight craze and its sexy, sparkly vampires, but it’s still going to take a lot to give vampires their scary dignity back. Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Strain” might just be what the doctor ordered.

Mía Maestro as Dr. Nora Martinez, and an unfortunate pilot
“The Strain” premiered on FX on July 13th, 2014. We are two episodes into a slow-paced, but promising new horror series. Of course, I write this review having read the trilogy on which the series is based- “The Strain”, “The Fall”, and “The Night Eternal”, written by Guillermo Del Toro (co-authored by Chuck Hogan)—and knowing that while the story takes its time to unfold, the pace will soon be dizzying, weaving together several storylines against the backdrop of a vampire “plague” invading New York City.
In the first episode, a plane lands in NYC, with all shades but one drawn and no signs of life. 

When the CDC is called in to investigate, they find a plane full of dead passengers, with the exception of four survivors, who are soon released (despite looking pale and sickly as can be.) An elderly pawnshop owner, Abraham Setrakian, takes a keen interest in the plane, and more importantly, a wooden box that was transported on it. On the flip side, we have a rich, ill, elderly follow named Eldritch Palmer who seems on the verge of making a deal with the devil, and his oddly vampiric companion who employs Latino gangbanger Gus Elizalde to do his dirty work. 

Guillermo Del Toro has a keen eye for bizarre body horror, so it stands to reason his take on the vampire mythos comes with gruesome reimagining. His vampires don’t sparkle in the sun and don’t feed with dainty little fangs; the transformation from human to vampire is brutal, as the “vampire infection” is spread through creepy little worms, causing the host to slowly die and to grow an extending stinger from their throats (the better to drink your blood with, my dear!) 

The horror is nice, but it’s really the characters that sold me on the book trilogy, and the reason I’m excited to follow the series. Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the CDC epidemiologist who is tasked with investigating the mysterious outbreak that killed the plane passengers, is pretty bland (of course he’s a recovering alcoholic and of course he’s in the middle of a divorce) and Mía Maestro is given very little to do as Dr. Nora Martinez, though she is very promising as our female lead. Sean Astin is already starting to shine as CDC administrator Jim Kent, a sweet guy who’s clearly got some interesting secrets. 

Miguel Gomez as Gus is your pretty stereotypical thug, but watching him get caught up in a vampire horror is fun to watch, and Gomez does a pretty good job with the character. Russian exterminator Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) has only gotten one scene so far, but it’s a terrific scene, and 100% on track with how I pictured the big, sweet, unflappable character from the books. I’m hoping the series will go on for a few seasons just because I really want to see his storyline develop on-screen.  

David Bradley as Abraham Setrakian
The series’ standout character, to me, is Abraham Setrakian. Fans of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones will recognize David Bradley in the role of the vampire-hunting Holocaust survivor who has unfinished business with the Master of this whole vampire plague. To say that Setrakian is a badass grandpa is an understatement.  

As an adaptation, “The Strain” is pretty faithful so far. As a horror series, it’s pretty darn entertaining. For anyone looking to put a bit of horror back in their vampires, this is a series you’ll want to follow.  

Marie Victoria Robertson is a published speculative fiction writer and playwright, as well as the board president of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative ( When all the other girls wanted to marry Johnny Depp, she wanted to run away with Worf on the Enterprise. She enjoys giant robots, time-travel paradoxes, and forcing her son to watch Futurama.

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