You can see why it’s a guilty pleasure. But bear with me. These aren’t the glamorous, simpering vampires we’ve come to hate through certain young-adult novels. Yes, they feast on human blood, but they lurch around like zombies and attack via a snake-like appendage that erupts from the mouth, like a frog nailing a fly. Much more efficient than fangs. The appendage is a two-way conduit: while delivering blood to the vampire, it delivers the little white parasitic worms that eventually turn the victim into yet another vampire.
Disgusting, yes. And delightful. Vampires are supposed to elicit horror, as opposed to gentle yearning.
Let me stress that these vampires are in no way sexy. Upon infection, in fact, the genitals are the first things to go. Eeww. And like zombies, they take no care at all for their personal appearance. I would love to see “Twilight’s” Bella Swan in the world of “The Strain.” Still want to get married, dear?
About the writing and direction: It’s occasionally scary, though the pacing sometimes bogs down in dopey background stories and the horror sometimes veers into camp and cliche. The unintended campiness is not a terrible thing, since it injects some humor into a series that otherwise takes itself a little too seriously.
The evil villains at the heart of “The Strain” are all a bit too familiar. There’s the Koch-like tycoon seeking immortality, the ex-Nazi camp commandant who already has it, and finally, pulling all the strings: The Master, recently arrived from Eastern Europe in an unwieldy wooden box.
You can’t miss The Master: Basso profundo voice, about eight feet tall and wearing a cloak with an enormous hood that totally obscures the face, like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
The hood is a cliche too, but the writers may have made a mistake in pulling it back too soon. Once you get a load of the The Master’s face — a mashup of Voldemort, the Swamp Creature, and the late actor Lee Marvin — it’s hard to sustain much dread.
Still, I’m up to episode 11. Somehow I enjoy it. It’s an interesting twist to the genre: Vampirism as infectious disease, maybe more resonant because of the current Ebola outbreak in Africa. And I may have mentioned that I’m a fan of doomsday yarns involving New York.
The season ends Oct. 5. Apparently there’s a second season planned for next summer.