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Sunday 10:00 PM on FX (Returning Summer 2016)
We all know by now that the extra anticipated show The Strain by the hands of Guillermo del Toro, the director and writer who gave us the magnificent Pan's Labyrinth, will be a deep journey of sci-fi horror and possibly the first serious attempt of the TV show industry into blending the two genres that gave us classic masterpieces like Alien.

However, looking at sci-fi horrors of the 21st century like the movie Prometheus and the unique (that's exactly the word) SyFy show Helix, we should have a look at the things The Strain mustn't do in order to become a breathtaking experience.

1. We need scientists, not "scientists"

One of the main reasons the above sci-fi horrors, Prometheus and Helix, did wrong was the believability of their scientists. Laughable dialogue, decisions that scream unprofessionalism, moronic ideas and fatal logical mistakes not even a 12-year-old kid wouldn't do should steer clear from The Strain or at least from The Strain scientists. After all, we already saw in the trailer a random dude approaching what seemed to be a resting Grim Reaper, who is, as the readers of the book say, one of the Originals and by far the most dangerous of them (I guess - you know, since he is growling and stick that terrifying tongue on you).


2. Create an atmospheric environment by any means necessary

The main concept of any successful horror story is to have a slow start where everything will seem normal, or what casual audience would call "boring" (aka safe). While the "boring" is unraveling, the show, by any means necessary (cinematography, music scores, acting, etc), must gradually build, stone by stone, an enthralling and atmospheric environment without the audience actually realizing it. When the last stone is placed and the character along with the audience are trapped (in this case, the epidemic restricts the actions and space of the characters), lights "go out" and the beast shall enter the atmospheric arena. It is wise not to show us their appearance from the beginning but gradually reveal more and more until the full monstrosity is in front of us.


3. Give us a satisfactory sci-fi explanation of the vampirism


While I haven't read the books, those who actually sucked them (with their eyes, not the tongue/gastroscopic tube) say that the first book goes into great detail about the functionality of the vampires, how their organs work, how the virus is mutating the host, why and how they digest blood, all coming from the capable CDC team that investigates the outbreak. Sci-fi adaptations for the vampires are very rare and I can only recall the Underworld franchise and the Daybreakers with an adaptation like that. Despite The Strain has a hardcore supernatural adaptation for the origins of the vampires, a well-thought sci-fi explanation for their general functions would be a great addition to the sci-fi genre and the vampire fan community.


4. Give to the vampires realistic personalities and motives

One common mistake with the vampire drama shows like The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and True Blood are the unrealistic personalities of the vampires. Without any doubt, creatures that lived for centuries in the dark, practically cut-off from humanity, killing every night to feed (at least The Strain vampires don't seem to have any choice even if they don't want to), watching humanity change without any real change won't really be interested in romance and drama. The chances are, the elder the vampire, the more he will despise humanity. However, to that equation we should add maturity, self-control and a strategic, out-of-the-box, big-picture way of thinking and realizing the environment. The vampires who meet the "Grim-Reaper"-one-of-the-originals vampire in the trailer seem to be some kind of Elders and they are in a good path of persuading us that they do act, feel and think like centuries-old creatures.


5. Be more frightening than jump-scary and gross

Jump-scares and extensive "gross factor" are identification cards of "cheap" horror. The Strain, if it means to be quality, needs to base its terror on the atmospheric environment and the necessary plot twists. The plot twists complete the horror puzzle after the audience has watched "boring" sequences that distract them from the atmospheric environment which is being established around them, the characters are trapped in that environment (and the audience is imprisoned) and the monster is walking in the hallways. Plot twists are breaking any assumptions and logical rules the audience has made and completely disorient, resulting in a truly horrifying experience where everything can change/happen. The most successful horror movies, Psycho and Alien has used exactly the above recipe and I expect from The Strain to do the same.


Do you agree with my points? Have anything to add? I'm hearing your thoughts as I craft a mental sledgehammer to escape the mental horror prison del Toro may prepare as we speak...
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So far the people in this show are complete idiots.

SPOILER ALERT------------------

They don't go to the doctor when all their hair falls out, bleeding from their eyes and other ridiculous symptoms.

They are analyzing these never before seen worm like creatures in their street clothes...nope we dont need any protective gear...its just another space worm or something from hell.

When the french guys DEAD daughter shows up he doenst think to let people know...she looks like a demon from hell but he acts as if she is fine and doesn't need any medical attention.

It doesn't matter how insanely out of control the situation gets, Ephraim Goodweather so far never escalates the case to higher authorities...he apparently is going to single handedly solve this insanely bizarre and impossible case....no need to let the higher ups know...its just your standard demonic people eating monster.

Even when all the DEAD passengers come back to life it remains their team of incompetent staff.

If it wasn't for the fact that i'm very curious what all of this is i would not be continuing to watch it because its so poorly scripted out its crazy.

All i can say is im glad these people arent REALLY in charge of the CDC or were all screwed.
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I agree with everything you pointed out and I really hope the writers deliver something new and original (no, not those Originals). Fingers crossed!
And thank you for this great article. :-)
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I am looking forward to people deciding to split up in order to "cover more ground", to bad CGI, pseudo-science and struggling dialogue with too much exposition, to baddies revealing their plans, hesitating before making the kill and people randomly and absurdly ignoring clues or warnings.
Should they instead follow these 5 rules it just won't be fun anymore ;-)
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I`ve read the books and there is a part where someone says lets split up and another person says: No!! You never split up!! So they don't split up.
If the show is a good as the books I think you`ll like it.
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Unfortunately I think characters making bad decisions has become a staple of the horror genre. That being said it's easy enough to say they're making bad decisions; we're not in the situation ourselves, so whose to say we wouldn't do the same stupid thing? So I guess that's my point, I get that characters can make mistakes (in fact, I like it when they do because it makes them more believable) but ensure the audience knows their logic behind them and what they are thinking. I'd be much more likely to accept characters making stupid mistakes if I were to understand their motivation and decision making behind their actions, which is generally not an aspect audiences are privy too.

All series that deal with supernatural creatures must choose how they wish to explain the origins of said creatures, or whether they want to at all (The Walking Dead has proven it's not necessary to do this). The problem with origin stories is that they usually involve a lot of tedious exposition and can potentially be very boring. Since The Strain is obviously going to be based around the CDC team investigating the outbreak this aspect may be an ongoing and unavoidable problem the series will face. I'm all for information 'about the functionality of the vampires, how their organs work, how the virus is mutating the host, why and how they digest blood', but I'm hard pressed of thinking of a way that the series will also be able to present this as entertaining television.

I was hoping that The Strain would present vampires as more monsters than human within the series. While I enjoy the series you mentioned like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood, I feel that vampires have become very romanticised beings, and we really need a depiction of them that is truly monstrous - a creature without conscious, killing mercilessly to quench it's thirst for blood. Now that would be scary and upset the status-quo you were talking about! It seems from your discussion her though is that there will still be quite a human aspect too them, which is disappointing news for me. Here's hoping they are able to make them into convincing characters, will still remaining scary, nonetheless.
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Amazing comment, thank you. I am sure the origins and functionality can be entertaining TV as long as there is a simplified yet coherent way of explaining the facts spiced with something more common. When you sign in for a sci-fi (and fantasy since their origins are hardcore supernatural) you must expect pseudoscience. Just one note, The Strain vampires are mindless monsters when their transformation is completed and regain their self-control after some time. So, there will be "true" monsters at the beginning. Not that seeing an elder in a suit talking about NYSE indexes and then shooting his gastroscopic tube-tongue won't be freaky, right? :P
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No worries, thanks for the insightful post, I'm not too familiar with the original text so your discussion helped me get a clearer understanding of what the series will be about, and what it will deal with. I'm very much looking forward to darker vampires after the lighter fare the industry has presented for the last couple of years.
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Glad I provided more info! As a vamp fan I am tired of the romantic and most of the times boring and cliche vampire adaptations too. And while my favorite adaptation would be one that uses realistic sci-fi to explain their functionality and pinpoints the personality change, the mental breakdown, the way someone who kills to live 4ever can see the humanity mentally stagnated, I will have to wait for any future mentally-deep vampire story and just sink myself in the horror of The Strain. At least I, as a geek too, will enjoy the carefully crafted sci-fi element of the show - which is truly disgusting.
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