The steady stream of bullshit that nurtures Hollywood can drive its denizens to believe they're capable of anything: Actors want to direct, directors wish to write, and transients see themselves headlining summer blockbusters. In reality, most successful Hollywood players are only marginally talented in their chosen vocation, much less others. There are rare exceptions. Guillermo Del Toro has made a career out of taking unconventional risks, directing idiosyncratic films such as Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth within the blockbuster-minded studio system. As a result, he has earned the benefit of the doubt, even if his literary concerns include vampires, the most tired subject matter in contemporary genre fiction. Del Toros The Strain series is a pulpy, gripping read that benefits from the directors cinematic vision. He and coauthor Chuck Hogan recently released the second novel in the trilogy, The Fall, expanding the scope of the universe while still delivering a brisk, economical narrative. The premise y will be familiar to anyone familiar with vampire fiction: Vampirism spreads across the country like an infection, and the United States is overrun with the undead. Unlike traditional vampire tales, which focus on a handful of protagonists, The Strain has a global scope. The series is a welcome response to the dominant vampire-as-heartthrob model, and demonstrates that Del Toro is one of the few Hollywood players whose talents match his ambitions.
Tue., Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m., 2010