HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Strain: Season 2
HTS Overall Score:85
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Guillermo del Toro and a TV show in the same sentence? Yup, pure and utter over the top craziness mixed with hyper aggressive visual aesthetics that lean towards the monstrous and almost alien in nature. That’s pretty much EXACTLY what you get here with “The Strain”, which does something that no one has done in almost 15 years. Put the FEAR back in Vampires. It’s a strange notion when people think of Vampires and go “Man, I’d love to hook up with that one”. It used to be that Vampires would strike TERROR in the hearts of man. Even Anne Rice made them simply alluring and GORGEOUS, but it was ploy. Underneath they were terrifying creatures that would rip your body apart and maybe go for your soul (depending on the iteration of the source material). Then of course we started cheering for them as heroes and turning them into good guys. Then came the truest form of terror for any vampire fan. They were turned into mopey sparkly things that people wanted to date. Then comes along Season 1 of “The Strain”, thanks to del Toro, and for the first time in at least 15 years I got CREEPED out by the blood sucking monsters.
The second season is just fantastical and fairy tailesque as the first season is, opening up with a creepy little horror story that introduces the watchers to the gross and disturbing world of vampires that we live in during this modern time (within the scope of the show of course). After last season’s epic showdown with The Master, the humans have gone to developing a bio weapon to fight against the Strigoi. Meanwhile, Setrakian is off on a side quest to find the ancient tome of vampire lore titles “Occido Lumen” in order to gain another advantage over their undead foes. Palmer and Eichorst are of course still fighting amongst themselves, but we have a new character to love, and that comes in the form of the half breed vampire/human Quinlan, who acts as the “Blade” of the group (and has a nasty little bone weapon that can deal some serious damage to the baddies too).
As with all things del Toro, there is an element of fantasy and an element of reality in the show that weaves. For the 13 episode season we are regaled with mystical vampire tomes, battles between humans and vamps, blood sucking monsters who will truly make your skin crawl, and the unfortunate side effect of focusing too much on the annoying plot points of the show. The best part of the series comes from the characters, and there are some NICE characters in here, but sadly the show wants to try and focus on the ones that DON’T work as much. Characters will drop out of view for weeks at a time and then pop back up, and those are usually the ones who you WANT to know more about, not the constant infighting or the political machinations of Councilwoman Feraldo.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78226[/img]Still, despite some annoying quirks, the show has a lot going for it. Eph’s bio weapon makes for a compelling story, and it was nice to see a story focusing less on how to CREATE a bio weapon, but more about how to synthesize enough and distribute it instead of the age old “what mystical combination do I need to make it work!” cliché that has been done to death. The same goes for the villains of the show. The Strigoi were pretty stereotypical Del Toro villains in the first season, but this season spices it up by turning Kelly into a villain with her transformation as well as the blind feelers, which elicited a skin crawling reacton from more than a few people in my viewing party. Quinlan acts as a nasty “hero”, as his swordplay is simply brutal and bloody as he hacks and slashes his way through the rank and file Strigoi with gusto.
Last season’s evil is still this season’s evil though, as Richar Sammel’s portrayal of Eichorst is the highlight of both seasons. He is completely and totally EVIL to the core and his gleefully hammy performance is spot on, giving much needed life to the show when it starts to stumble and falter with the main characters. He’s given even more screen time this season, having him terrorizing Dutch by relieving his old Nazi days, or trading witty retorts with Kelly, or just plain causing havoc. There’s a really neat little flashback that goes into his past and shows what humble beginnings he came from, before he found out his calling.
The Episode Rundown is as follows.
By Any Means
The Silver Angel
Quick and Painless
Battle for Red Hook
The Night Train
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78234[/img]“The Strain: Season 2” keeps up with the digital photography using the Arri Alexa cameras (I think they used a Red Epic the previous season, but I can’t be sure according to my sources), and it the 1.78:1 framed image looks stunning in its dark and shadowy atmosphere. If you’ve ever seen something that del Toro has been a part of you know what to expect in the show. Lots and LOTS of shadows combined with creepy golds and teals mixed with grey shadows to keep things looking dark and mysterious. Clarity and fine detail are amazing, showing off every pore and fiber on the hero’s faces, as well as the goo and grime on the nasty feelers. Shadows are deep and inky with only a few moments of intermittent banding and some crush to mar the picture ever so slightly. Simply put, for a show that REALLY likes to use dark levels, it is a magnificent looking experience.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78242[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA experience is just as impressive, with a standard horror track that focuses on a lots of jump scares as strigoi leap out of the darkness as well as an overall creepy score to the show. Dialog is above reproach and anchored firmly in the center channel, while the surrounds get a very heavy workout with the battles as well as clattering of feet and claws in the darkness. Directional movement is superb, as you can hear the sounds of the monsters in the dark shifting around and moving from one end of the sound stage to another, while LFE is tight and pounding away mercilessly.
• Deleted Scenes
• Meet the Crew of "The Strain"
• Audio Commentary on "Night Train" featuring Carlton Cuse
• Gag Reel
• Beyond the Page
• Sentient Strigoi
“The Strain” has a LOT going for it, and the only thing that is keeping it a 4/5 instead of something higher is the repetitive storytelling that follows the fantastic lore. So many things get beaten to death that it does get a little saddle sore for those who have been following at the beginning. Still the show makes up for it with incredibly bloody fights, intriguing plots that keep the show fresh and agile, while maintaining some truly creepy villains that make the show a good mixture of horror and action. The audio and video are once again top notch this season, and there is actually a pretty surprising array of extras. If you like creepy crawly action/horror shows (think “Penny Dreadful”), and have an affinity for Guillermo del Toro, then definitely check it out for a creepy watch.
Starring: Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Kevin Durand
Created by: Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1 ,French, German DTS 5.1
Runtime: 546 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 23rd, 2016
Buy The Strain: Season 2 On Blu-Ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Creepy Watch
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