Synopsis: A plane bound from Berlin, Germany mysteriously stops dead at the tarmac in JFK International Airport in New York City. A CDC investigator, his team, and an elderly pawn shop owner will all come to learn the horrifying truth as to why.
We live in a new golden age of horror television. Once thought the bastard child, horror has been coming on strongly over the past few years. The Walking Dead, Supernatural, Hannibal, Bates Motel and the recent Penny Dreadful have opened the floodgates for horror to hit the small screen and I couldn’t be happier. Last night a new contender for the horror crown debuted on FX, the Guillermo Del Toro creation titled, “The Strain.” Let me tell you now, this show is going to be BIG.
I’ve been anxiously awaiting The Strain’s debut on television. It’s an adaptation of Del Toro’s trilogy of novels. Actually, the show borrows a lot from the comic book adaptation to be honest. This is a good thing. While the novels are an incredible trilogy unlike any other, the comics have set a look for the world of The Strain that I absolutely adore. The new TV show already has nailed the look.
Now, I’m sure many of you reading this have never read the novels or the comics, so I’m going to focus on the TV show itself for the remainder of this review. This will be kind of hard to discuss, because I don’t want to spoil what’s going on for those not familiar with the source material. I’m going to try though.
From the very beginning, there is a sense of dread and malice looming over the show that really hits home for me. From the cinematography to the music, everything feels completely unsettling. Something is very, very wrong with the flight. I won’t get too deep into spoilers but I will say this. That feeling is intentional. If you have been living under a rock, this is an epic vampire story. Not any kind of vampires that you’ve seen before. No, these could only come from the mind of Guillermo Del Toro. They bring the horror back to the vampire genre.
There are a lot of things to like about this pilot. For one, the visual style is striking. Del Toro(who both directed and co-wrote this episode) makes fantastic use of colors throughout the episode. The colors used are vibrant which actually helps make the moments of darkness feel all the more unnerving. As the episode goes on, you can actually see the color palette subtly shift to darker tones. That really helps sell the fact that something horrible is growing in the city. I have a feeling by the end of the season the look of the show will be quite different.
The pacing of the show is very deliberate but not what I’d consider slow at all. This episode was dedicated to showing what the situation was and introducing us to the characters. To be quite honest, it went further in the story than I expected. Some of you may not have liked the pacing for the episode but to that end I simply say stick with it. The pace will pick up as all hell breaks loose.
The effects, both practical and digital, are quite the sight. When it comes to gore, this episode has already hit very, very hard. I’m really happy that they showed a couple of feedings. In particular, the first feeding was a thing of grotesque beauty featuring a gigantic creature beneath some extremely tattered robes. Those that are familiar with the source material will know exactly who this is and for those that don’t, well, let’s just say he’s a major player in this story.
As far as the digital effects go, they tend to be unobtrusive overall. This isn’t Michael Bay after all. One really cool scene showed one of the leads, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather texting with his son Zack. In a nod to the comics, a text message bubble pops up on screen next to their phones showing their text messages. I found this a really cool and clever way to show what they are saying without them having to actually say it.
The cast is amazing. In particular, this episode focused on introducing us to the main players. Primarily Eph and Abraham Setrakian. David Bradley is as perfect casting as it gets for Setrakian, the elderly man who has dealt with this plague before. Honestly, I can’t see anyone else playing the role. Corey Stoll is also perfect casting as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the CDC Canary Team leader. He’s very likable and hard not to root for. Everyone else does well, but I’ll wait until they have more to do before getting into why I like them.
Overall I thought this was a great way to introduce the characters and the world of The Strain. It effectively set the snowball rolling downhill. The cast is perfect and I have extremely high hopes for the rest of the series. Check it out as soon as you can!