With del Toro, Cuse, 'The Strain' modifies horror culture

The Fresno BeeJuly 11, 2014 

Pictured: (L-R) Corey Stoll as Ephraim Goodweather, Mia Maestro as Nora Martinez in "The Strain."

FX

PASADENA — What would you get if cinema master of the macabre Guillermo del Toro and TV's mystery master Carlton Cuse got together?

"The Strain," an FX series that blends the real-world fear of bioterrorism with the fantasy world of vampires.

"The Strain," based on the best-selling trilogy by del Toro and Chuck Hogan, begins with a plane filled with dead passengers and crew. The key to the strange deaths is linked to an odd box of soil found in the luggage compartment and a conspiracy by a billionaire who is so creepy he makes Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons" seem like the poster boy for normalcy.

Writer/producer Cuse read the "Strain" books after his TV series "Lost" ended in 2010. At the time, the books were just part of a large stack Cuse planned to read once the ABC series worked its way to an end. But Cuse was approached in 2012 about working with del Toro on adapting the books into a cable series.

Cuse liked the idea that the core of the series is based in fantasy, but the foundation is very real.

"I think that one of the amazing things is that Guillermo and Chuck, in their books, it wasn't just like 'let's invent our version of the vampires.' It was something that was sort of engineered all the way down to the actual biological systems. I spent a lot of time discussing with Guillermo the fact that these vampires feed and (expletive deleted) at the same time, and they have this incredibly elaborate biological mechanism that overtakes the regular human biology, and all that is detailed pretty thoroughly in the show," Cuse says.

The reality elements come through Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City.

He investigates a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Goodweather, his team and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers wage war for the fate of humanity.

David Bradley, Mia Maestro, Sean Astin and Kevin Durand star.

The talent behind the show brings a lot of experience in making creepy worlds and offbeat TV. But the show is launching when there are plenty of movies and TV shows that touch on the blood-sucking world. Cuse expects his show to stand out like a vampire at a tanning salon because of del Toro.

"He's a real visionary when it comes to creating monsters and fantasy worlds. And so, these creatures, as imagined by Guillermo, are really compelling, interesting and different than what you've seen before," Cuse says. "I feel like Guillermo has brought real vision to the way these creatures have been realized that I think audiences will find it really compelling."

Unlike other vampire TV shows, there is an end mark for "The Strain." It would run at least three years — one year for each book — and no more than five seasons to accommodate for characters from the book being expanded for the TV series.

Cuse loves that there is a finite end. That could be because "Lost" seemed to hit several places where it could end but just kept going.

" 'The Strain' trilogy is a story with a beginning, middle, and end. And we are moving toward that ending. It's a question of just exactly how many episodes it will be," Cuse says.


Show info

"The Strain": 10 p.m. Sundays on FX Network

 

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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