The small-screen adaptation of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire novel saga The Strain got off to a slow start during its premiere.
In fact, The Strain waited more than 20 minutes (without commercials!) to get gory—which is somewhat surprising considering the criticism of the horror show’s skin-crawling (and eye-slithering) billboards. If the show’s safe-for-the-street art was considered too extreme, then surely a series on the envelope-pushing FX network would delight fright-ophiles from its start? Well, yes and no.
Once The Strain got rolling, it featured some seriously squeam-inducing moments, as is only natural with a series led by epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll). Virus science is gross, y’all. Unlike Eph, viewers are already clued-in about the cause of hundreds of mysterious deaths thanks to a series of 10 scenes that, to paraphrase EW’s critic Melissa Maerz, would make you cover your eyes “if you weren’t already checking for worms in the sockets.”
Suffice it to say, there will be plenty of spoilers to come, so stop reading now if you don’t want full details on The Strain’s series debut.
10. Blinded by the Light
Early in the investigation of a plane that landed at JFK with a seemingly full cargo of dead passengers, Eph’s partner Dr. Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro) shone a UV light on the storage bins that looked more like it should have been on an episode of Cheaters than a horror series. Please don’t make me think of sex fluids when I’m watching my vamp stories, EP Carlton Cuse.
9. A Jar Too Far
There’s still much to be learned about Professor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley, creepy as ever), who appears to hold the keys to the series’ kick-starting mystery, but we do know he keeps a beating heart infested by worm-like wrigglers in his home. He also feeds that heart with his own blood and calls it “dear.” True love comes in many forms?
8. The Flash
Emma, the youngest passenger on the plane, returned to her slap-happy father at episode’s end, and let’s just say she was a little worse for the wear. As the j’adore-ing papa embraced his little angel, her eyes glinted ominously, foreshadowing chilling developments to come. Perhaps more eerie than gross, but anything involving a child gets extra creep-out points.
7. Look North, Young Girl
Before we knew her name, we immediately knew we’d never be able to unsee Emma’s face. Eph and Nora performed an extensive tactile examination of Emma’s face while still on the plane, tugging down the skin under her eye and letting it slide slooooowly back into place. Children + eyeballs = GROSS
6. The Secret of the Ooze
Several scenes in the episode’s second half took place in the morgue as an ill-fated lab tech sliced and diced the “dead” (or, as it were, undead) passengers. As if seeing a cadaver getting up close and personal with a scalpel weren’t icky enough, said corpse secreted white ooze. We’ll never eat Greek yogurt or mayonnaise again.
5. Internal Investigations
At the top of a delightfully spooky sequence set to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” (playing on the radio in the foreground), this poor schlub had been split wide open. And, while it is what’s on the inside that counts, we don’t want to see it.
4. The Heart of the Matter
What is it with this show and repulsive hearts? Well, in this moment, the lab tech started to realize just too late that the worm parasites had sealed the passengers’ fates—and invaded their tickers.
3. From a Distance
One more (morbidly beautiful) pulsing heart shot, just for kicks.
2. Attack Mode
Before that exquisite long shot, the new vampires finally arose from their slumber and promptly mass-attacked the lab tech. The gang-fang itself was wonderfully gory (though these vamps don’t use teeth, so clustersuck?), but the addition of ’60s schlock pop and tumbling entrails took the spine-tingling goodness to the next level.
1. Master Class in Horror
Precisely halfway through the episode, we finally met the series’ Big Bad, The Master. The cinematic sequence, which also happened to serve as the series’ first on-screen kill, spanned a full minute and showed what giddy frights are to come. After
a nameless guard Bishop walked down a blood-soaked hallway, behold as the übervamp launched his deadly stinger into the guy’s carotid and drained him dry. (We know! We saw it from the inside!) Want more? Heck yes, The Strain will give you more: After that his victim was practically mummified, The Master repeatedly smashed in his head, revealing that there was more blood left. Gross-out factor: 10. Awesome factor: 11.
The Strain airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.