'The Strain': No vampire romance here

Story highlights

  • FX's new series "The Strain" is a return to scary vampires
  • Series is produced by Guillermo del Toro, Carlton Cuse and Chuck Hogan
  • Critics have lauded its debut
Tender, loving vampires? Look elsewhere than FX's "The Strain."
The new thriller series, produced by Guillermo del Toro, Carlton Cuse and author Chuck Hogan, wants to make bloodsuckers scary again.
"The vampire genre has sort of been overrun by romance," Cuse told reporters on a press call. "We had had our fill of vampires that we're feeling sorry for because they had romantic problems."
Instead, "The Strain's" vampires lose their heart, their hair and their genital organs. When these vampires fully transition, there's no mistaking them for the really pale guy in science class.
For Cuse, that was the selling point for hopping aboard.
"The idea of sort of reimagining the vampires, going back to the roots of what vampires are -- that they are scary, dangerous creatures -- that was something that was incredibly compelling for me; the idea that when you see these things, it's not good."
An adaptation of Hogan and del Toro's books, "The Strain," premiering Sunday, July 13, begins with the mysterious deaths of passengers aboard an airplane that lands in New York. All but a few on the flight appear to be dead, and CDC epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) heads over to investigate with a few colleagues.
But the wormy outbreak they're examining is far more ancient and sinister then they realize -- and it isn't long before the horrific outbreak spreads.
"I've been obsessed by vampires for a long, long time, since I was a very young kid, and a very strange kid," del Toro said during the press call.
"I read about vampire mythology worldwide and I familiarized myself with the Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian and Eastern European variations on the vampire, and many, many others. And I kept very detailed notes as a kid on where to go with the vampire myth in terms of brutality, social structure (and) biology. Some of those notes made it into my first feature, 'Cronos.' Some of them made it in 'Blade II' when I directed that, and most of them made it into 'The Strain.'"
In del Toro's world, the undead do not sparkle, do not brood and do not hesitate to take out someone they once loved. In fact, the first thing to go is their heart.
"The older that they stay alive, the more they lose their humanity," del Toro explained. "They start literally by losing their heart; their heart is suffocated by a vampire heart that overtakes the functions. This was important metaphorically for me because the beacon that guides these vampires to their victims is love. Love is what makes them seek their victims. They go to the people they love the most. So they turn their instinct that is most innately human into the most inhuman feeding mechanism."
With "The Strain" being on FX, hardcore horror fans are likely skeptical that the drama can be as graphic as an R-rated movie would be. Cuse told press that the network gave the producers "the latitude" to tell the story their way -- and critics have taken notice.
"'The Strain' is packed with so much macabre imagery and so many clever ideas that it doesn't feel like the resuscitation of a tired genre, but the launch of something new and fun," says HitFix's Alan Sepinwall.
Granted, like the show's gross-out billboards, the producers' commitment to "unadulterated" storytelling may not sit well with some viewers.
"This is cult-classic, midnight-movie horror, designed in meticulous, mythology-respecting detail for comic-book readers and fangirls and -boys," says Entertainment Weekly. "The show isn't for everyone. But that special someone it is for? She's gonna love it."