The Strain: It’s Nosferatu on Steroids

My last quasi-review on this blog was of Helix, a sci-fi horror show about a strange and deadly contagion which had overpowered a research lab in the arctic circle. My issue wasn’t with the set or the story, but rather that Helix wasn’t really about anything. Science fiction is a medium for us to explore big ideas, like the line between humanity and technology, free will, and responsibility. The horror genre functions the same way, with its stories serving as ways for us to examine the duality of our nature…

…our place in the cosmos…

…and questions of faith.

Going into The Strain, my biggest question was “what’s this all about?”, and readers, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that it’s a blast.

I almost feel guilty writing this. I mean, there’s not a ton of differences between Helix and The Strain, and I know I graded Helix a lot tougher. I just can’t bring myself to say that The Strain was anything less than enjoyable, readers, even if it’s just appealing to yours truly on a personal level.

Let me explain.

It’s no secret that this is a vampire series, but at long last, not one where you can sympathize with the fell children of the night in any way.

None of this crap.

For any of the die-hard vampire fans out there (no Twihards or True Blood fans, you don’t count and you know it), The Strain is heavily lifted from F. W. Murnau’s classic vampire film Nosferatu– in fact, the opening sequence seems to be a straight call back to a scene in the film.

Which I won’t spoil, but folks who’ve seen it know what I’m talking about…

Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if the main character’s nickname  of “F” is a direct reference to Murnau. Certainly, everything else is borrowed pretty heavily from Nosferatu.

Back in Nosferatu, the whole “seductive vampire” is eschewed for the more traditionally monstrous one, with the titular creature serving as a representation of plague and disease. Heck, the Van Helsing stand-in for Nosferatu is actually introduced in the middle of a lecture on predatory microscopic lifeforms. Likewise, The Strain plays up that same comparison, with references made repeatedly regarding infection, disease, and yep, “plague”.

In short, we’ve got a modernized Nosferatu, only with the muscle to carve out a place on television and keep it. I’ve seen some grisly stuff on TV recently, but dang, this one might be a contender for the top. Always nice to see a show have that unapologetic boldness when it comes to blood and gore.

Now if what I’m describing sounds more like a zombie flick… you wouldn’t be too far off. Honestly though, that can be forgiven considering that we’re being given the rare treat of actually watching the infection take root and spread.

(As opposed to this, which seems more common)

And we’ve gotta give the show props for its ability to ramp up the tension. Unlike Helix, this show thrives on the unexpected. The jump-scares are there, but what really gets ya is just having no clue where the show is going- not something that works quite as well in the “bottle episode” style of the former show.

Again though we, gotta ask “What is the show about? What inherent fear is being spoken to here?”

Watching the airport scenes, it’s tough not to draw parallels between this and the unfortunate Malaysian air flights of this year. Pandemic is the name of the game here, but a general sense of powerlessness is present as well. I think it’s in the way they describe the contagion- as a kind of simple, purely destructive evil existing to spread itself. That’s where I think the charm of it is- the villain isn’t the folks wielding the disease, it is the disease.

But what’s it about?

I think that remains to be seen. The pilot opens and closes with cryptic references to hunger and love, though exactly how they’re trying to connect those to truly inhuman disease isn’t exactly clear. Hope springs eternal though, so let’s keep our fingers crossed and keep watching.

I’ve got a good feeling about this one, folks.

Quick question: why is Dr. Goodweather’s steering wheel on the right-hand side of the car? Just curious.

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