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TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Medical
Cast
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 as Zach Goodweather
Channel
FX
Reviewer
Paul Asay
The Strain

The Strain

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.

The vampires in FX's horrible horror series The Strain are infected with said worm—making them not so much creatures of the unholy night as really, really sick patients in a troubled trauma center. 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. 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.

But it is still, apparently, just a disease—not some sort of magical curse or unholy condition. And as the parasites worm their way deeper into the Big Apple, a small phalanx of doctors, scientists and latter-day vampire hunters struggle to bring the contagion under control.

Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez—doctors for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—are the first to suspect that something's amiss. Despite pressure from their bosses to drop the case, as well as Eph's familial distractions (he's in the midst of a quarrelsome custody battle for his son, Zach), they work relentlessly toward saving this city that, more than ever, doesn't sleep.

But there's something else at work here, too, something ... malevolent. Parasites, by nature, are amoral: They just do what they do. But these scary critters have a Master, a mysterious being who sleeps in a massive coffin. The Master seems to be in charge of the whole works and is served by an undead Nazi named Thomas Eichhorst. A disease is one thing, but a race of bloodsuckers controlled by something close to pure evil? Eph and Nora may need some reinforcements.

The Strain is the brainchild of creature-feature director Guillermo del Toro. He co-wrote three novels (with Chuck Hogan) on which the series is based and directed the first episode. And with such a man at the helm, it's a given that the result will practically gush 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 side nudity and simulated sex when the blood isn't oozing. There's quite a bit of bad language, too.

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

Episode Reviews

"The Box"

Survivors are allowed to leave quarantine and go home, much to Eph's and Nora's annoyance. All is clearly not well. And soon, one of the freed, shock rocker Gabriel, while having a sexual foursome (we see bare torsos and a great deal of near nudity), bites a girl on the neck and draws blood. The women flee as Gabe proceeds to lap up blood from the floor. Elsewhere, another woman realizes blood is leaking from her mouth and into her wine. Eph, Nora and CDC official Jim Kent investigate a corpse and find that the man's head has been crushed (blood and brain matter are everywhere, prompting Jim to vomit). A little girl kills her father with her proboscis tongue; the man lies lifeless, half in a bathtub, as blood stains the water. A dead mouse and rat are held up for display.

Eichhorst talks with Abraham Setrakian, an elderly professor in prison, and makes it clear the two were acquainted with each other in a concentration camp. Eichhorst tells Abraham that his God is an allusion: "You are not a hero or a savior," he says. "You're just a number. I took your name and gave you that number. That's all you are."

Gabe crushes and snorts erectile dysfunction medication. He talks about his first acid trip. People drink wine, whiskey and champagne. But Eph attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and says of his son, "He's all I have left. He's my whole world." Characters say the s-word close to 10 times. We also hear "h---," "a--," "b--ch," "b--tard" and "p---." "D--n" is paired with "God." Jesus' name is abused once.

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