Some may say that the film and TV market has become oversaturated with vampire tales, from the romantic and dough-eyed teen hits to the more violent and sexier romps. “The Strain”, which premiered its first episode on Sunday night, manages to tear the audience away from what we’ve always known about vampirism, creating an entirely new base from which this frighteningly promising series will grow.
Created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain follows the events following the landing of a plane at JFK Airport that was found with the lights off and no signs of panic from the passengers inside.
The season premiere, titled “Night Zero”, kicks off with the flight itself, due to land at any moment. Suddenly, one of the air hostesses is called to the back of the plane by her scared colleague, who claims to have heard a creature in the below compartment. She initially dismisses his concerns, but finds out just as quickly how real the creature is.
Meanwhile in the city, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) who is in charge of the CDC Canary Team is so far unaware of the strange plane landing, and very much late for a counseling session with his wife. Despite telling his son that he has a “good feeling” about this, it turns out his wife has pretty much made up her mind about her “absent” husband – and the counselor seems pretty tired of his shit by this point. Ephraim states that he wants this marriage to work, even pronouncing that he’ll quit his job. But alas, his phone keeps ringing and duty calls.
When Ephraim arrives at the scene, he is met by his colleagues Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin). It’s madness all around with the various government agencies speculating and “measuring dicks” to see who gets to step on board first. Using his knowledge of how quickly a virus can spread, Ephraim is able to scare the others away from volunteering, finally entering the eerily silent plane with Nora. Their search leads to 200 dead bodies and four survivors who are promptly quarantined, along with an ancient-looking coffin filled with dirt (presumably the hiding place of the vampire master).
Elsewhere, we meet a sort of evil tycoon in the form of Eldrich Palmer (Johnathan Hyde), who appears to be in cahoots with the evil organisation that has successfully brought the strain to New York City. There is a silver lining however. Palmer’s creepy friend Thomas Eichorst – whom we presume to be a vampire – appears vaguely miffed about the reappearance of a Holocaust survivor-turned-pawnbroker called Abraham Setrakain (David Bradley). As it turns out, Abraham knows all too well about this particular strain of evil. He later warns Ephraim to behead the survivors and the dead, whilst keeping a close eye on the coffin. Naturally, Ephraim dismisses the old man as a crazy sort and subsequently loses the coffin (thanks in part to the evil organisation having little helpers all over the show, one of whom is none other than the doctor’s colleague Jim).
At the morgue – and this was my favourite part – the mortician is busy checking out the deceased from the plane, discovering that the bodies have been drained of blood, are oozing a white substance and seem to have an identical incision in the neck that couldn’t have been performed by any tool known to the doctors. Whilst jamming to “Sweet Caroline”, the mortician realises that picking up one of the deceased’s hearts was a big no no when one of the worms tries to enter his skin. He manages to get it out, but unknown to him the dead have risen…and they are hungry. Needless to say, it doesn’t end too well for the curious mortician, nor does it leave that warm and upbeat feeling once felt by fans of the Neil Diamond classic.
Finding the right balance between realism, horror and comedy is a tricky task, yet del Toro and Hogan manages to accomplish just that. Corey Stoll is the perfect man to play Dr. Goodweather, and we’re excited to see him pair up with Abraham to take down the evil forces at play. It’s infinitely clear that there will be a strong WWII connection, with the strain being an ancient force perhaps once utilised by the Nazis. We’re excited to finally see an original approach to the subject to vampires and highly recommend this show to horror fans and del Toro lifers.