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is the strain good

FX and Guillermo del Toro’s Vampire Drama ‘The Strain’ Is So Bad It’s Bad

It’s going for scary, pulpy fun, but it ends up feeling dull, plodding, and horrendously overwritten.

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Guillermo del Toro walks a very fine line with everything he produces, and he usually does it well, giving us pulpy, self-aware, but giddy and fun genre entertainment that manages to stand out from the crowd. I am a major defender of his Hellboy films, enjoyed Pacific Rim even though it didn’t linger after I left the theater, and still wish he’d gotten the chance to make those boring old Hobbit movies. But with FX horror-drama The Strain (based on his and Chuck Hogan’s novel and developed with Lost writer Carlton Cuse), he doesn’t come close to toeing that line. The line, to quote the august American humorist Joey Tribbiani, is a dot to him.

This thing should be a barrel full of fun. Cuse has done great work over the last two years with the gleefully camp Bates Motel, a Psycho prequel that has absolutely no business being anywhere near as enjoyable as it is. (Vera Farmiga certainly helps in that regard.) Perhaps he will exert more control over the season—I have only seen the pilot episode, which draws very heavily from del Toro and Hogan’s novel, released in 2009 after efforts to develop the idea as a TV series failed.

FX is striking while the vampire genre is hot, sort of. But in case you didn’t spot those gross worm-eye posters around the city, this is not going to be a sexy show. Our heroes work for the CDC and are initially investigating some kind of viral outbreak on a plane from Berlin that landed dark and radio-silent at JFK. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), marching around with a Dickensian name spouting expositional techno-babble dialogue, quickly realize they’re dealing with some weird wormy parasite. But it’s vampires, kinda? A big caped monster vampire? There’s a nice mix of lore going into this creature, but everything around it is so dull, it’s hard to get invested in the mystery.

Stoll held the camera’s attention with such menace in charm in House of Cards and Midnight in Paris, but from his first scene (a jaw-dropping dump of thudding, explanatory monologues about his life and work situation in a counselor’s office) something seems not quite right. His supporting cast includes Mia Maestro and Sean Astin to dispense more dumb science-y dialogue mixed with “what’s going on here!” questions that bore an audience who have already seen the damn monster do his business.

It's going for scary, pulpy fun, but it ends up feeling dull, plodding, and horrendously overwritten. 

The Strain (2014 – 2017)

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Series Info

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Seasons

2017, FX, 10 episodes

2016, FX, 10 episodes

2015, FX, 13 episodes

2014, FX, 13 episodes

Cast & Crew

Series Details

TV Network: FX
Premiere Date:
Genre: Horror
Executive Producer: Guillermo del Toro

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About Tomatometer

A series gets an Average Tomatometer when at least 50 percent of its seasons have a score. The Average Tomatometer is the sum of all season scores divided by the number of seasons with a Tomatometer.

About Audience Score

The percentage of users who rated this 3.5 stars or higher.

A vampiric virus spreads through New York City.