Horror of Horrors: The Strain
Vampires are even more popular than zombies in our popular culture these days, but I have to ask, what has happened to our vampires? I mean, let’s see…Vampire Diaries, Twilight, True Blood, Angel in Buffy, The All Souls Trilogy, and the list goes on: what is something all these vamps have in common? They want to hold on to their humanity from before they were turned and love humans despite their new nature’s need to feed on them. They toss away human blood for animal blood or True Blood as a replacement. I am not the first to recognize this. I personally think Damon commented on it best, the then evil-vampire brother in the Vampire Diaries, who put it in a conversation with his then compelled (bewitched) human girlfriend while reading one of the Twilight books:
Damon (while paging through Eclipse): What’s so special about this Bella girl? Edward is so whipped!
Caroline: You have to read the first book first, otherwise it won’t make sense. Damon: Uh, I miss Ann Rice, she was so on it.
Caroline: Hey, how come you don’t sparkle?
Damon: Because I live in the real world where vampires burn in the sun…
I laughed pretty hard when I saw that scene, being a Twilight fan myself, so I can’t blame those who love the tortured vampire trying to be human…who wouldn’t want to have immortality and at the same time still be the compassionate, caring person you thought you were before you started drinking human blood for sustenance? If you are a lucky vampire, a helpless fangbanger will fall in to your arms and you can feed on them with pleasure as they are happy to give in the hopes of joining your immortality, so you might not even have to stoop to animal blood. What has happened to the blood-sucking, fear-inducing vampire that we all appreciated in the past?!?! I would love to go in to the discussions of immortality and chaos that the above link does about the philosophy behind the vampire story, but rather, I want you all to find faith that there are still authors out there trying to bring you to the brink with fear as the original vampire novels did. I mean, after all, you probably all think of I Am Legend as a zombie flick with Will Smith, right? Would you be surprised to know the original novel the movie was based on was about a vampire plague? Probably… since the novel also inspired Night of the Living Dead and other zombie portrayals. But if you have seen that movie and can think of those creatures attacking Will Smith on the dock after Sam dies, you can feel the fear that permeated most people’s hearts when they thought of an traditional vampire. Sure, it’s a blood thirsty creature like most zombies, but the real fear of a vampire is not only are they blood-thirsty, they are also smart, calculating, manipulative, and without compassion. They can seduce you to your death, they can trap you like an animal, and they will enjoy it as they suck the last drop of life from you…
So now we come to the novel this whole post is about: The Strain. Are you really surprised it took Guillermo Del Toro to write the next horrifying vampire novel? From the writer who brought you children eating monsters in Pan’s Labyrinth and crazy human eating monsters in Hellboy 2, are you really surprised? Try delighted from my end! He teamed up with Chuck Hogan, another famous author, to bring you a true horrific vampire novel.
The novel starts out as a plane lands from Europe at JFK airport. While coasting along on the tarmac to it’s gate, it suddenly stops in its tracks and all the lights go out. Emergency responders realize the entire plane has shut down, leaving those on board with a limited air supply. Rescuers and fire crews get to work, but one of the passenger doors suddenly opens on its own, something that would have taken immense human strength to do from inside…The fire men and EMTs barge in, but the CDC is soon called in to assist. All the passengers seem dead…until three miraculously wake up and are taken to a nearby hospital. The rest are taken to the morgue where it is discovered that they were drained completely of blood, which seems to be the cause of their death. A mysterious entry wound over the jugular or femoral artery seems to be present in most of the dead victims.
Meanwhile, citizens of NYC watch enthralled on the TV, and an ancient owner of a pawn shop who happens to be a survivor of the Holocaust heads to the airport. His goal is to warn the CDC of the impending apocalypse that he knows is coming.
I could go a lot more in to the novel, but will try to hold off so that you have lots to learn from reading the novel itself. But while this description might have given you a little to fear, you are probably not that scared right now and want to know why I would recommend this as a Horror of Horrors? Well…let me describe one more thing to you. You probably already realized a vampire outbreak and apocalypse was coming from my description, so let’s picture the vampires of this mayhem. They are not sexy men that rose from the death on their plane arriving at JFK to sucker scantily clothed women in to their service. This vampire plague is controlled by a bloodworm that is infected by a virus. It transforms the human body into a feeding machine: a giant sucker develops in the throat and digestive tract, making the vampire victims unable to speak, and when they need to feed a 3-6 foot giant sucker like what you would picture as a humungous leech springs from their mouth and embeds itself in you, their victim, until you are drained dry. By then, even though dead, the bloodworms have infected you so you too will arise a vampire. (This picture doesn’t do the imagery justice, but you get the points).
And after you are a vampire, all you do is eat and shit. Since your body is infested with these blood worms that fuel the transformation, if you happen to be a vampire slayer you better come with ultraviolet light of some sort- cause once you decapitate or stab the vampire through the heart to kill it, these blood worms rapidly leave their host and move as fast as they can to the nearest living host, probably you. They live for several minutes outside the body, so unless you brought a UV light to fry them, you better run clear of the dead vampire body as fast as you can. Picture dozens of 1-2 inch tiny worms slithering up the sword’s blade toward your hand on the hilt after you successfully killed your first vamp…Lastly, the other element making these vampires horrific as they should be, is the small part of their brain that lingers on. The bloodworms take hold of most of the body, but part of brain remembers your “loved ones”, your most cherished human counterparts, whether that be your significant other, parents, children, or friends. If your loved one is turned to a vampire, they will come looking for you, since that is the only part of them still human. But unlike the Stefans and Edwards of today’s day and age, they come to you to feed, and then be one with you again as a vampire.
Hopefully I have intrigued your fear button a little and inspired you to go read this book. Chapter after chapter has such beautifully horrific imagery, making it so you feel like you too are huddled against the wall praying that obese, naked vampire with lifeless eyes in the middle of the street didn’t recognize you through the window when you made eye contact with it. You too will feel vulnerable and helpless as worms slither up towards your body or as you feel for the victim with 12+ suckers embedded in their flesh as they are eaten to death.
Be afraid folks, Del Toro did an excellent job resurrecting the terrifying, life-taking, monster vampire that they were supposed to be. Rumor is that they will be making a TV show based on the books, and there are currently 3 books in the series. So even more to look forward to.
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