Posted by: Ele Quigan | October 12, 2010

‘The Strain’ Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

It’s always interesting when a classic concept gets redeveloped in some way for the future or now, like Shakespeare’s Richard the III set in the 1930’s or even cheesy film remakes that bear no resemblance to the original like The Italian job… One type of characterisation or fictionalised historical archetype that is often remade or reimagined that I at least like to think I’m fairly familiar with is the humble vampire.

Yes yes, you know the one, has to be invited in, afraid of garlic, can be killed by sunlight, has a sense of dark sensuousness etcetcetc…

Some concept re-imaginings are horrifying (Twilights’ abhorrent vampires including the vacuous Edward Cullen, SPARKLING for goodness sake), some are interesting (Southern Vampire Mysteries with Vampires out in public drinking synthetically made blood), some are traditional (Louis from the Anne Rice Interview series being a vampire with a conscience). Hence there is always a little bit of trepidation when encountering a new author and novel style on a subject and genre such as this, you will often judge the novel entirely on their interpretation of traditional characteristics or particular features that you understand, or even align with given your historical background with the subject. (That’s not saying I align with vampires, more that I like my vampires having traditional attributes)

‘The Strain’ is however, a more complex twist on an old theme, and one which I really liked.

Written by Director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, if you haven’t seen it, do – it’s phenomenally good) and Chuck Hogan, vampires are suddenly a lot more visual, darker and angrier. While not your typical bite and breed – vampirism within ‘The Strain’ is a virus, and unusually, a time lapse body morph more akin to the Alien films rather than a the simple underground 1 evening change. (link to example image here, be warned, it’s a bit icky)

I loved that it started with a single plane landing – and treated initially like a deadly virus. If perchance vampires were real (though in saying that I would love to tell my 13 yr old self that they really aren’t and to do more study rather than absorb yourself in horror fiction for the next few years) I can imagine that this would almost be the acceptable approach to something that would seem impossible to believe otherwise.

The only frustrating thing was in the last fifth of the novel, it seemed to lose tension or to lose the speed at which life as we know it was unravelling – almost like they added an extra 30 pages for bulk rather than actual content. But in saying that – it was late (2am or so) when I finished it, due to another one of my many sleepless nights of late, so I could have actually been really tired and just not taking in the content as much as I could have been.

I’m going to definitely pick up the sequel when it’s in paperback (it’s the first one of a trilogy apparently…) It will be interesting to see how the story evolves beyond the vamps trying to take New York via a single plane landing.

Gotta love the fact this book had a trailer and a microsite to go with it as well – I wonder how much of the original design and imagery is Mr del Toro’s… (definitely still wish he was directing The Hobbit!)

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