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The Strain is an Infectious Vampire Gore Fest

Guillermo Del Toro's gorefest masterpiece, The Strain, combines elements of vampire and contagion shows.

For the past few years vampires have been effectively defanged. All of the initial menace from these terrifying blood suckers has been drained out. In their place we’ve seen then transformed into erotic creatures of lust and desire. Immortal beauties so far removed from their horror roots they become the erotic fixation of teenage fantasy. Stories like Twilight have served to delude and neuter vampires of their menace much to the dismay of longtime horror fans. But famed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro has had enough of it. No more beautiful lovelorn vampire designed to be fawned over by teenage girls. With The Strain Del Toro sought to create a new kind of vampire that stripped the monster of any sense of romanticism. That was the impetus for the creation of The Strain. Originally Del Toro saw it as a tv series, but he was unable to find anyone interested in producing it amongst the major networks. He took an alternate path by collaborating with novelist Chuck Hogan to turn his idea into a trilogy of books. Ironically enough, a few years later after the runaway success of The Walking Dead, his books were optioned for a tv series so Del Toro got have his original desire of seeing The Strain turned into a TV series.

In The Strain the vampires are built from the ground up to be as inherently repulsive as possible. With special attention being paid to their biology. They work as parasitic creatures instead of the usual immortal demons seen in pop culture. The vampires or strigoi as they are called on the show spread their infection via infection from capillary worms that infect their hosts through the bloodstream. The worms can cause their infection either by entering from an open wood or as direct infection from a Vampire’s stinger which infects its victims when it feeds. The worms infect their hosts with a virus that manipulate their genes mutating and transforming them into strigoi. The human body is forced through grotesque metamorphosis where it’s forced to form a retractable proboscis just under the tongue grown out of their former lung sacks and throat tissue. This proboscis is over six-feet-long and comes out of the mouth creating a stinger that serves the dual purpose of feeding and reproduction by spreading worms and feeding on human blood. In fact the jaw unhinges much like a snake allowing the strigoi to shoot out the stinger from their mouth.

The design in many respects is much like the reapers that Guillermo Del Toro used in Blade 2 only taken to the next level. After becoming infected a vampire begins to shed the human traits that have become obsolete in it’s new life cycle. Hair and fingernails are lost and the nose and ears atrophy to the point they fall off completely. A fully matured strigoi have smooth skin as featureless as marble. They also develop a membrane over their eyes to protect during feeding. The middle fingers grow into a thick talon which comes to replace the lost fingernail. Given that the vampires reproduce via infection there’s no need for sexual organs so they also atrophy and fall off leaving mature vampires with no discernible gender.

Just how Del Toro gave his vampires a very complex biology he also had their weaknesses rooted in science. So don’t bother bringing any crucifixes or holy water. Even the old staple of garlic tends to be useless against the vampires of The Strain. Sunlight works as their ultimate destroyer because of the germicidal properties of UVC light and ultraviolet lights can also work as strigoi destroyer. Silver still does wonders against them due to its disinfection properties damaging the strigoi's viral biology. Of course the old fashioned methods of decapitation or destroying the spine also work wonders for the merry band of vampire hunters featured on the show.

Despite all of these disgusting traits the strigoi of the strain do share one trait with the vampires of legend. They are immortal. Unless they are slain by sunlight or violence their parasitic bodies will never fade or weaken. They effectively have an endless life span. Even if their host body is damaged a strigoi can transfer its consciousness to a new body by transferring its capillary worms. So despite all of the gross complications of becoming a strain vampire still gives you access to immortality. Assuming you’re willing to live with the physical repercussions. The strain has served to be a big hit for FX getting renewed for a second season shortly after it’s premiere. Much like how The Walking Dead uses the comics to serve as the backbone for its overarching story arcs The Strain uses the original novels, but adds a great deal of deviations and new characters to help stretch things out for a 13 episode season. In some cases this has added some great new material, but in others it’s forced the series to drag in certain areas. As of right now Del Toro used the first book to form the basis of the first season. While the second and third seasons will see the second book being split in half while the third book will be split in two for seasons four and five. Making for a five season run in total. Not quite as long as the seemingly forever running Walking Dead, but more than enough to give horror fans all the blood sucking action they crave. FX even went so far as teaming up with the University of California Irvine to create open online course titled “Fight or Die: The Science behind FX’S The Strain.” The course was offered free to anyone interested in learning the real-world collegiate-level lessons inspired by the show covering everything from vampire parasites to cyber attacks. 

The four-week course was offered on the Canvas Network, and was taught by a multidisciplinary team of UC Irvine faculty: Pavan Kadandale, molecular biology and biochemistry; Hadar Ziv, information and computer science; and Sarah Eichhorn, physical sciences. These faculty lead course modules designed to provide a practical and theoretical understanding of parasites, cyber attacks and disease dynamics. Allowing fans to get a little education along with their fantasy horror. But not everything is all academic on this show. With the third season receiving a shortened 10 episode season things will be moving much faster than some of the more methodically paced episodes seen in the second season. Some of the best bits of the series have been the extensive flashbacks that have shown the role that strigoi have played throughout history. Including the harrowing backstory of Abraham Setrakian and his imprisonment in concentration camp at the mercy of the Master. The third season is bound to elaborate with even more historical flashbacks with such characters like the awesome half-breed Quinlan and the Silver Angel having the potential to gain further development. For horror fans the Strain is a savior for the sparkly emo vampires that have infested television and film screens. With the best material to come in the third book let’s keep our fingers crossed that The Strain makes it all the way to season 5 so we can continue to enjoy Del Toro’s tv horror masterpiece. Besides how many times can you see Rick shoot or stab a zombie in the head before it gets old. TV sci-fi horror needs diversity. The proboscis spewing strigoi are just the right shot in the arm that’s needed to help the undead stand out in cluttered apocalyptic landscape. 

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