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“THE STRAIN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (COLLECTOR’S EDITION)” (Blu-ray Review)

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Following the massive success of THE WALKING DEAD, one of the coolest announcements to come from the flood of horror coming to cable was that of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s THE STRAIN. Having been a fan of the book trilogy (which actually helped this writer keep his sanity when electricity and heat were absent in the wake of Hurricane Sandy), the idea of del Toro and Hogan bringing their unique vision of vampirism and anarchy to serialized television was especially enticing. However, when the pilot hit, this writer found the intriguing and technically wonderful pilot episode to not quite have been the home run he was looking for, and after 4 episodes of the series, I felt that the need to cover every aspect of the book (and then some) had grown tiresome. So when the opportunity arose to revisit and finish the series in a brand-spankin’-new collector’s edition, complete with a miniature bust of The Master’s head, this writer tempered his expectations and jumped in headfirst.

While the visually stunning and radically bloody first four episodes were still a bit of a chore, THE STRAIN picks up considerably around the fifth episode and truly lived up to thrilling source material from there on out. Even the show’s alterations from the book made for some excellent television, and the “bottle episode” at the gas station might have been one of the scariest hours of television period. In any case, THE STRAIN’s mythology and storytelling really ramps up in the latter 2/3rds of the season, and whether its looking out for horror icons like Rick Baker and Larry Fessenden in all-too-brief appearances or keeping an eye out for jaw-dropping gore, there’s something in the series for every breed of horror hound.

Luckily, THE STRAIN’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set also comes with the incentive of being a “Premium Edition” package, including a wealth of new features as well as every nook and cranny the standard Blu-ray release included. Outside of the box itself, featuring a design comparable to The Master’s coffin when paired with the aforementioned bust, THE STRAIN doesn’t skimp out on the high definition transfer as well. The image quality is stunningly sharp and clear, which is a relief considering how much the series relies on its colorful visuals. Furthermore, the audio presentation is excellent as well, and should reward those with a multi-channel stereo system just as well as those with the standard def set-up.

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And then there’s the special features, which should more than satiate the hardcore and/or patient STRAIN fans out there. While the original John Hurt/Lance Henriksen-starring pilot is nowhere to be found (presumably waiting for the “complete series” Blu-ray set, if del Toro’s comments are to be believed), this edition does include nearly 25 minutes of deleted scenes across the three-disc set, which should help fill some narrative gaps and round out some character-driven moments a little better. Fans will also eat up a pair of brand new commentaries featured on the discs, one of which features del Toro himself talking about the pilot (which should serve as a crash course for the uninitiated into del Toro’s passionate, anecdotal commentaries) and the other features executive producer Carlton Cuse on the season finale.

Other new features on the set include a 3-minute gag reel (which is always fun to see on a series that takes itself so seriously), a 10-minute featurette on The Master entitled “He is Here”, and a two-minute reel of FX’s viral teasers for the series. On the other hand, ported over features include a 15-minute retrospective featurette called “In the Beginning”, a 10-minute featurette featuring del Toro on his inspirations for the novel aptly titled “A Novel Approach” and a 10-minute feature feature on Sertrakian’s lair.

Overall, for fans of THE STRAIN and potential newcomers, this “Premium” Collector’s Edition Blu-ray should serve as a great way to catch up with the series and get the most comprehensive experience with the series to date. The extras may not necessarily justify a double dip if you’ve already got the series, unless (like this writer) you’re utterly charmed by del Toro’s rambling commentary tracks. And for high def aficionados who have yet to add THE STRAIN to their assembly of terror television titles, this is going to be the best you’re going to get for a good, long time.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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