‘The Strain’: These Vampires Don’t Sparkle and They Definitely Are Not Romantic

‘The Strain’ co-creators Guillermo Del Toro and Carlton Cuse go into detail on the vampires featured in this series and how they are like nothing ever seen before on television or in film.

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

Through one episode thus far of the new FX series ‘The Strain’ it was clear that the vampires in this particular show were a far cry from anything scene on television in recent history. While there was only one clear vampire related event that took place in the debut episode, the ground work is already laid for a completely different type of mythology for this series as opposed to others already airing on TV today or in recent films.

Series such as ‘True Blood’ give vampires a much more human element to them while others like ‘The Vampire Diaries’ are a romanticized version of the creatures first written about in literature as far back as the 1700’s.

‘The Strain’ hopes to uproot that mythology all together while creating an entirely new genre around the legendary creatures. Following the past few years where the vampire craze hit an all time high, show co-creator Carlton Cuse says it’s time to get past the versions of the blood sucking fiends that sparkle and ooze sexuality and get back to the root of what these things were meant to be all along — emotionless, soulless, killing machines more akin to the great white shark than the latest Gerard Butler romantic comedy.

“I think The Strain upends the current conception of the vampire genre,” Cuse said recently when speaking to the media via a conference call. “As I said before, I think we’ve had our fill of romantic, brooding, sparkling, depressed vampire characters, which those are really sort of like love stories sprinkled with a genre.

“The idea of sort of re-imagining the vampires, going back in a way that the roots of what vampires are, that they are scary, dangerous creatures, that was something that was incredibly compelling for me. That was something that really drew me to the project, and the idea that when you see these things it’s not good.”

Another major difference of the mystique surrounding ‘The Strain’ has to do with the biological makeup, which separates these creatures from so many previous conceptions done in film or television. ‘The Strain’ co-creator Guillermo Del Toro went to great lengths to not only make the vampires for this series different, but strip away many of the mythical or even religious connotations previously held for vampires and instead make this a biological threat no different than the latest killer virus infecting the world.

The biggest difference with this virus, however, is that it walks, talks and attacks in a very physical form and as witnessed in the debut, a disturbing and scary manner as well. The design, created specifically by Del Toro, was meant to be a far cry from the vampires currently roaming the airwaves on other networks.

“I knew that the older the vampires stay alive, the older that they stay alive, the more they lose their humanity. They start literally by losing their heart,” Del Toro described. “Their heart is suffocated by a vampire heart that overtakes the functions. And 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, so their heart is dead.

“Then shortly thereafter their digestive system is overtaken. Then, as we do in an early episode, their genitals fall off. And their excretion system becomes really, really efficient in the way that ticks, or lower forms of life that feed on blood do, a tick in order to feed needs to eliquate itself, and they are eliquating while they are feeding. And in the series that comes with the big splashes of ammonia infused liquid that they expel while they’re feeding. And then I know that they lose their soft tissue, their ears start falling off, their nose, if they’ve been alive for several years their nose rots and falls away, and they develop a tracheal opening to vent the extra heat from the metabolism and to project the stinger. So, I take a very biological approach. It’s not just, oh, that looks cool. I try to have it make sense biologically in the design.”

A unique part of ‘The Strain’ stems from not only the scientific explanation of the vampires in the series, but also a new back story in their history and how these creatures not only came to be but how they are planning a viral attack on the world.

It’s the kind of intricate detail that Del Toro plotted out when writing ‘The Strain’ as a three book series, and now he’s starting to unravel that through the show in each episode. Cuse believes that detail is a big part of the reason this show has a great chance at being successful is that it transcends the common nomenclature of being a horror show versus a drama versus a thriller.

‘The Strain’ is all things to all people and that’s one reason it’s been so well received thus far.

“On a show like The Walking Dead they have zombies, and those zombies are capable of doing a few limited things. I think one of the things that’s really interesting about this story, that really inspired me as a show runner and storyteller, is the layers of mythology,” Cuse stated. “And as the show goes on we not only learn about the functioning of these vampires, but we also come to understand that there’s a hierarchy of vampires, and then there’s a history to these vampires, and there’s a mythology behind the existence of these vampires.

“And as that unfolds and as we began to understand that these creatures are not only scary and dangerous but also sentient and smart, that adds just a whole other layer to the forces of antagonism, which just makes for great storytelling.”

‘The Strain’ returns with the second episode of the season on Sunday night at 10pm ET on FX.

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