Writer, producer and director Guillermo del Toro is a very busy guy. At San Diego Comic-Con 2014 he was juggling press duties for his vampire TV series, The Strain, alongside promoting his new horror movie Crimson Peak and teasing upcoming projects Pacific Rim 2, Hellboy 3 and At the Mountains of Madness. It’s amazing that he ever finds time to sleep. The third episode of The Strain, ‘Gone Smooth’, aired during Comic-Con last week, and the cast and crew were on hand to give any idea of what to expect from the show. Screen Rant got a chance to sit down with del Toro, who co-wrote the book series upon which The Strain is based and directed the pilot episode, and talk to him about where his version of vampire mythology is derived from.
For sure, del Toro loves to tell stories about vampires, as is evidenced not only by The Strain but also by Blade II and his early film Cronos. In all of these projects, and particularly in The Strain, the director hasn’t shied away from portraying vampires in the most gross and visceral ways, including given them proboscises and filling them with capillary worms. This flies in the face of more recent vampire media, including the Twilight books and movies, and TV shows like like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood that are focused much more on making vampires seem as sexy as possible. However, del Toro was quick to communicate that there is room for both gross and sexy vampires in the world.
“I’m not interested in creating by counterpoint. I’m interested in just what I’m interested in. I think that the vampire as a romantic hero is perfectly valid in a world [where] girls want to talk about romance without feeling silly. That mythology allows them to dream without sounding not down to earth, not cool, whatever. It makes it kind of cool. So I think it’s the opposite; it’s not dreaming of vampires, the vampires are allowing you to dream of romance.
“On the other hand, for me the interest is to create a vampire parasite. Something truly repulsive. In Eastern European lore the vampire is a resurrected corpse with an alien will in it. It can be a demonic spirit, it can be the body of a suicide, it can be an unholy crime that makes the vampire be interred on unholy ground, like a crossroads… I was interested more in mythology that made it a thing, with a horrible will possessing it, you know, which is the will of the Master. So it’s not about counterpointing the sparkly vampires, it’s about creating gnarly ones.”
It soon became very clear that del Toro knows a lot about vampires. The Strain was based on research into vampire mythology from all around the world that had started during his childhood and grown into his own personal vampire Bible. Because of this, del Toro was able to offer some insight into how the vampire first became a romanticized and sexualized figure.
“The first vampire story in the English language was written by John W. Polidori, it was called ‘The Vampyre.’ And Polidori was the personal physician of Lord Byron. He was, I think, secretly had a man crush on Lord Byron, but he was subservient to him, so Polidori hated Lord Byron and loved Lord Byron. So the character, the main vampire is called Lord Ruthven and he is presented in the story as a repulsive creature when he goes to drink the victim, and as a beautiful, magnetic gentleman when he’s in human form. So there started the dichotomy.
“I think that in Victorian times… they channel all the sexual tension to the drinking. It became an oral act of almost pleasure, you know. In my case that’s why in the pilot of ‘The Strain’ I want to make sure that you see the vampire drink the victim like a Capri Sun square, and then crush it like you would crush a Capri Sun or an aluminum can, and throw it away. So you know these guys are not going to take you to dinner, show you a good time. They’re going to f**king drink you and throw you away.”
The Strain‘s principal cast includes Corey Stoll (who was recently confirmed to be playing Yellowjacket in Marvel’s Ant-Man) as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the head of the CDC team that investigates the initial outbreak of the virus, and Mía Maestro as his colleague Dr. Nora Martinez. David Bradley (Game of Thrones) also stars as Professor Abraham Setrakian, an aging vampire hunter who recruits the CDC’s help in trying to prevent the vampire takeover of New York City.
For fans of repulsive vampires with lots of unpleasant biology, The Strain is definitely worth a watch. For those who would prefer more romantic and sexy creatures of the night, perhaps try giving Polidori’s tale a read.
The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘It’s Not For Everyone’ at @10pm on FX.