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Guillermo del Toro Wants His 'Strain' to Show - Organic Horror
July 13, 2014  | By Gabriela Tamariz  | 1 comment

I’ve had a rocky experience with vampires ever since I thought I was old enough to watch Dracula as a child. I’m not a True Blood fan, I don’t know anything about Twilight (and would really like to keep it that way), and usually steer clear of vampire-themed material.

But FX's The Strain, premiering Sunday night at 10 ET, definitely has me intrigued.

Last week I participated in a conference call Q&A with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and Lost showrunner Carlton Cuse about their new FX series. Starring Corey Stoll (House of Cards, Midnight in Paris) and David Bradley (Game of Thrones),  the series should definitely be worth watching.

What intrigues me the most about The Strain is its commitment to telling a scary, horror story. Based on the novels written by del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain is a story about scary monsters, not sexy monsters that lure you in and fall in love. These are intricately designed, life-sucking, bloodthirsty creatures that transform into completely foreign and dangerous species that feed on the people they love.

Carlton Cuse (right) began the Q&A session answering questions about how he first became involved with the FX series, and teamed up with del Toro.

“I thought that embedded in the book was this fantastic opportunity to upend the vampire genre, as the vampire genre has sort of been overrun by romance, and that we had had our fill of vampires that we’re feeling sorry for because they had romantic problems,” Cuse said.

Cuse has recruited a collection of talented writers, such as  David Weddle and Brad Thompson from Battlestar Galactica, Regina Corrado (Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy), Jennifer Hutchinson (Breaking Bad) and many more. Casting director April Webster of ABC's Lost was also involved with the project, so it’s safe to say this TV show is in great hands.

Del Toro clearly has done his research. He’s been obsessed with vampires since he was a child, and has studied various culturally specific versions of the monster, whether they are Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian, or Eastern European. He talked about the vampire mythology in terms of brutality, social structure and biology, interests which were evident in his first feature, 1993’s Cronos, and in 2002’s Blade II.

“We really were able to put our unadulterated version of the story on screen, and FX has been enormously supportive,” Cuse said.

Each season, he explained, will follow the narrative of the books, and the show will most likely end in its fifth season. The pair confirmed they would be writing the story to an end point, and would follow the path established in the novels, but the TV show will be its own experience with different dramatic developments.

“If you look at the success this season, for instance, of True Detective and Fargo," Cuse said, "and as well as the kind of incredible response that the end of Breaking Bad got… I think you have to recognize that the audience wants to see stories that come to a conclusion. They want the full and rounded experience. I think that the best television is giving you a three-act experience.”

The Strain demonstrates the complementary set of skills of del Toro and Cuse. The pair approached the TV show like a feature film, and credited the longer pre-production period to plan out the makeup effects, creature effects and visual effects for allowing them to bring something to TV that you wouldn’t normally see on a broadcast network.

Del Toro spent a long time perfecting the color palette of the show. He jokingly called it “saturated monochrome” because the show limits itself to cyan and amber but makes room for red to exist, which is the only connection with the vampires.

“If you’re channel surfing -- the show would almost pop out and demand your attention visually. I wanted it to have a very strong inception from comic book form and illustration,” del Toro said.

In terms of creature creation, del Toro (right) wanted the design traits of these creatures to make sense to an audience. Designing took approximately six months. He wanted to make these creatures “feel organic, to make them feel like almost a different breed in the evolutionary history of this planet.”

“You have to show you are going to deliver, either by atmospheric, creepy moments or by visceral punch, hopefully both,” del Toro said. “You’re going to be able to deliver the goods, the things that will make you feel queasy, will make you feel unsafe, will bring this delightful shiver that is required with the genre.”

He also said there was room for “really, really sick humor,” particularly with an intense scene in the pilot set to a pop song.

Cuse considers it to be a thriller with horror elements: ”it’s not a show just for horror aficiandos,” he said.

Del Toro said he has made it a point to stay obsessively involved in supervising every single aspect of the effects in the series, from makeup to color correction.

“I feel this is our baby, neither just Chuck or Carlton’s or myself, is the three of us. It’s like Three Men and a Baby for vampires,” del Toro said.
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Alejandro Hoffino
You've convinced me to watch, ready for that delightful shiver :)
Jul 14, 2014   |  Reply
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