The creative and innovative genius of the horror and fantasy genre, Guillermo del Toro, has found another hit in his latest TV series for FX, called The Strain. The book-to-screen adaptation of a present-day New York City overrun by a vampiric virus is a refreshing new spin on the classic mythos of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Borrowing similar eerie details, del Toro’s and Chuck Hogan’s best-selling novel features familiar horror elements, plot and characters from the classic novel, revamped for a new generation without the romanticism.
In Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula is an ancient warlord with a pension for bloodlust who was later cursed for eternity to live as a blood-thirsty monster. The story opens with narration from Jonathan Harker, who is a English solicitor and visiting Count Dracula’s home in the mountains of Transylvania to provide legal representation for a real estate transaction. Upon Harkin’s arrival, he begins to notice that the Count and the castle in which he resides is less than normal. The longer he remains, the more Harkin realizes that he is no longer the Count’s visitor, but is now his prisoner as Dracula prepares for his voyage from Transylvania to England. The count leaves Harkin in the castle to fend for himself and arrives on unsuspecting English shores in an abandoned Russian ship called “The Demeter.” The ship’s crew is completely gone, except for the captain, and only boxes of dirt and silver sand remain.
As the story progresses, the Count makes his way through the London streets terrorizing
the unsuspecting inhabitants. A young and beautiful aristocrat, Lucy Westenra, falls victim to the Count’s thrall and slowly begins to change into a creature like him. To the men with which she surrounds herself, her best friend Mina and doctors, no one can explain this mysterious and active “disease” that has fallen over her. When her doctor can no longer successfully treat her, he calls on the help of a resident expert and former teacher, Doctor Abraham Van Helsing. Upon Van Helsing’s arrival and inspection of Lucy’s condition, he immediately understands what is happening but refuses to disclose the diagnosis. Lucy eventually dies and rises again as a undead stalker terrorizing young children of England. Van Helsing gathers the men close to her and newly-returned Harkin to free her and put an end to Dracula.
Although not directly borrowed from classic literature, The Strain pays homage to Stoker’s element with a modernized take on vampirism. Changing the location to present day New York City instead of a ship making the voyage across tumultuous seas, The Strain plays on people’s fear of flying with the arrival of a Boeing 777 at JFK International Airport, carrying 200 deceased passengers. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is eventually called in to inspect the strange phenomena. Viewers are introduced to a Harkin-esque protagonist in Doctor Ephraim Goodweather as he and colleague Doctor Nora Martinez go in to investigate. As they search the plane, they notice a strange ammonia discharge throughout the walls of the plane and come across a coffin filled with soil.
The creature in the coffin is referred to as “The Master” and solely is responsible for the re-animation and transformation of all of the undead passengers. As news spreads of the mysterious plane, only one man knows what is truly going on: Abraham Setrakian. He is a Holocaust survivor with a mysterious past who runs a pawn shop in Manhattan, the character is similar to Van Helsing’s character as he is the only one to know what is going on with the passengers. He begins to form a team to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
Although The Strain is not a direct carbon copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, similar elements make it a nice homage to the classic tale with the addition of a modernized twist. The vampire creatures in Del Toro’s novel and series are more animistic and savage than Stoker’s and, instead of a bite to the neck, the change occurs when a person comes in contact with the parasitic worms from the Master. Both stories are great tellings of a vampire outbreak, but a person could never overlook the classic novel.
By Tyler Cole