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TV Series Review

Forget suave. Forget sparkly. The Strain's vampires don't care what you think of them. They just want your blood. Your body. Your soul.

Pretty ambitious for a parasitic worm.

Nastier Than Your Average Zombie Virus

The vampires in FX's horror series The Strain are infected with said worm. The parasites, introduced to New York via an intercontinental flight, infect their human hosts and remake them in a manner more suitable for the invaders: They raise the body's temperature several degrees. They cause it to shed whatever hair it has, leaving the skin marble smooth (and particularly susceptible to terminal sunburn). They rewire the jaw so it can drop farther. That allows a long proboscis to shoot from the mouth and skewer prey, which both siphons off blood and infects the new victim, ensuring the propagation of the species.

It's a nasty, terrifying disease, one that the United States has been trying unsuccessfully to grapple with for three seasons (or, rather, a matter of weeks in the story's chronology). It looks for all the world like a vampire-zombie apocalypse.

But alas, there's more at work than just a really terrible infection. There's method to this madness, and this strange form of vampirism is ultimately caused by a being known as "The Master," one of seven ancient vampires who has decided to declare war on his brethren and create his own mostly dead army. Humankind? We're just "cattle" to these beings.

But even bovine can buck on occasion, and there's plenty of folks who want to kick up a fuss.

Dr. Ephraim Goodweather develops bioweapons against the vampires, or "munchers" as they're called. But the vampires have a bit of leverage on the guy—primarily his son, whom Eph would dearly like to see stay proboscis-free. Meanwhile, Vasily Fet, a one-time rat exterminator, is now using his skills on a different sort of pest. And then there's Professor Abraham Setrakian, who's delving into a mysterious book that may hold the secret to the vampires' ultimate demise.

Gushing With Grotesquerie

The Strain is the brainchild of creature-feature director extraordinaire Guillermo del Toro. He co-wrote three novels (with Chuck Hogan) on which the series is based, and he directed the first episode. With del Toro at the helm, it's little wonder the show gushes with grotesquery. And while the vampires here are as unsexy as a sentient being can be, that doesn't prevent viewers from getting an eyeful of near nudity and simulated sex when the blood isn't oozing. There's quite a bit of bad language, too.

And let's not forget the show's occult undertones. As The Strain has moved away from a virulent disease and transmorphed into a showdown between immortal vampire beings, Setrakian's book takes an ever-more central role. The Occido Lumen (as the tome is known) is supposedly a translation of ancient Sumerian tablets, and its secrets have reportedly been passed on through occultists and demonologists through the ages. And while some passages refer to biblical heroes and presuppose a struggle between cosmic good and evil, the Occido Lumen is hardly a source of spiritual truth.

You could say that The Strain, then, is in need of a strainer.


Positive Elements

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Episode Reviews

The Strain: Aug. 28, 2016 "New York Strong"
Strain: 7-20-2014



Readability Age Range



Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather; David Bradley as Professor Abraham Setrakian; Mia Maestro as Dr. Nora Martinez; Kevin Durand as Vasily Fet; Jonathan Hyde as Eldritch Palmer; Richard Sammel as Thomas Eichorst; Sean Astin as Jim Kent; Jack Kesy as Gabriel Bolivar; Natalie Brown as Kelly Goodweather; Miguel Gomez as Gus Elizalde; Ben Hyland and Max Charles as Zach Goodweather; Rupert Penry-Jones as Mr. Quinlan; Samantha Mathis as Justine Feraldo; Robin Atkin Downes as The Master






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On Video

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Paul Asay

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