The Strain: Book review
When the famous, fey Edward stepped into the sun in the film version of Twilight—easily the worst film we’ve seen this decade— and started twinkling, it became all too clear that in the aughts, vampires are only using their superhuman strength to jump the shark. But what’s a little ten-year blip when you’re immortal? Pan’s Labyrinth director Del Toro teams with mass-market thriller vet Hogan to suck new life into the ancient horror trope in the first in a planned trilogy, The Strain.
An amalgam of vampire motifs—drawing on both old-school legends and the more scientific-minded I Am Legend by Richard Matheson— The Strain plays to both base fears of creatures of the night and the more modern pandemic scare. When a plane lands in New York, all but four passengers are dead, bloodless and with telltale scratches on their necks. They’re telltale only because we’re reading a tale—to the scientists in the book, the passengers are victims of some mysterious plague. The four survivors come to with no memory of what happened on the plane and seemingly no illnesses. The deceased aren’t so lucky—their blood has been replaced by a mysterious ooze. Vampirism, it turns out, is a virus, and the co-novelists do their best to walk with one foot in CSI and the other in Stoker’s Dracula.
Del Toro borrows a lot from his standout Blade II, which makes it the first literary effort to draw on the work of Wesley Snipes. All in all, it’s some fairly silly, rarely inspired fun, the latter of which derives largely from Del Toro’s intent to return vampires to the gruesome monsters of lore. These vampires don’t twinkle, but they don’t exactly frighten, either.