Pacific Rim’ Guillermo del Toro is notoriously one of the busiest guys in show business, with his name constantly attached or rumored to be attached to a good two dozen different projects at any given time. But while the visionary director is best known for his work on the silver screen, both as writer and director as well as a producer on projects such as the horror film Mama and the cult hit Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, he’s about to make a major foray into television. His series The Strain, about an outbreak of a vampire virus, is planned to run between three and five seasons of FX…and they haven’t even aired a single episode yet. Never call the man un-ambitious.
Based on the trilogy of novels del Toro wrote with Chuck Hogan, The Strain was first published in 2009, followed by The Fall in 2010 and The Night Eternal in 2011. It was first announced last year that the series was being developed into a series, with FX ordering a pilot episode and a premiere slated for 2014, assuming FX does indeed pick up the show to series. So far it’s lined up a cast that includes Corey Stoll (The Bourne Legacy), John Hurt, Kevin Durand (Robin Hood), Mia Maestro (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Doug Jones (Hellboy, Falling Skies), and Robert Maillet as the primary bad guy (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters).
They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come.
In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months — the world.
A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.
In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing…
So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city — a city that includes his wife and son — before it is too late.
Speaking at the Television Critics Association Press Tour last week, FX’s Productions CEO John Langraf described the show as violent and in the vein of The Walking Dead or FX’s own American Horror Story (I can imagine The Strain making a perfect lead-in for AHS, or vice versa, assuming that show’s still alive and kicking at the time).
More intriguing is the network’s commitment to making the show a limited series with a specific end point. Langraf says:
It’s a trilogy, and the trilogy ends the story. It’s a truly epic story. And when Guillermo [del Toro] came in to sell it, one of the things they made clear is that they wanted to tell the story of the books. That story would be told over three, four or five seasons. They have work to do, in terms of figuring out how they are going to resituate that story, in an episodic television series, but it will be somewhere between 39 and 65 episodes. No less and no more, and I’m really excited about that.
That’s refreshing to hear in TV landscape where beloved shows often overstay their welcome, or attempt to expand beyond the length they merit (Under the Dome, I’m looking at you, you scamp). Especially given del Toro’s constantly packed schedule, committing from the beginning to making The Strain a specific, structured story with a beginning, middle, and end, is a very promising development. At least we can hopefully avoid season seven, when you find the vampire virus is just because of two dudes who really didn’t like each other and then one got chucked down a glowing hole in the ground.
It’s been a while since we had an exciting take on vampires (Twilight and True Blood don’t count), and given del Toro’s talent for incredible world-building and creature work, I can’t wait to see what the world of The Strain looks like, and how it will differ from his take on vampires presented in Blade: Trinity.