20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, out now
There’s an outbreak in New York City that the CDC are having problem controlling – and only an elderly Holocaust survivor really knows what to do…
The Strain has been one of those series whose plot has been allowed to develop at a sensible speed across its 13 episodes, rather than cramming too much into any one hour. Some of the early instalments feel a little clunky – there’s a bit too much of the story around Eph’s divorce, and the custody battle over his son, which is necessary to an extent to set up the dynamic that comes into play later on, but I’d have preferred that the flashbacks to the war began a bit sooner, perhaps establishing Setrakian’s life before the camp.
Although there’s the odd moment that pulls you out of the story (the representation of the chief vampire in the final few episodes has been likened to a Jim Henson puppet, which is cruel but fair) Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse and their team create a convincing world, setting up their characters in their own environments – from the gangs to the sewers to the murky world of the dark net – before crossing their paths and messing up their lives for ever.
There are some terrific horror moments and scares, and a display of the darker side of human nature – some of those you’d naturally assume are going to be on the side of the good guys aren’t really, while others surprise both themselves and the audience. I don’t want to give too much away – part of the fun of the series is the turns it takes – but it’s well worth the investment of time.
The discs contain three extras which are of varying interest – David Bradley (William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time) shows you round his character’s lair; and there are two pieces about the genesis of the series, both the original books and the TV show.
Verdict: More coherent than American Horror Story, this is some great TV horror. 8/10