Guillermo del Toro, director of such feature films as “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy” and “Pacific Rim,” heads to the small screen with “The Strain,” which premieres 9 p.m. Sunday on FX (Time Warner Cable channels 61, 205 and 1205).
The vampire drama is based on the novel by the same name -- the first of a trilogy -- that del Toro co-authored with Chuck Hogan, who serves as co-creator and executive producer. Carlton Cuse of Emmy-winning “Lost” also is an executive producer.
This, however, isn’t your typical vampire story. There is no Team Edward here or any other kind of romanticism of vampires as seen in HBO’s “True Blood” and The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries.”
Yes, these vamps are just as hungry for blood, but they are much more zombielike in their hunger.
And much scarier.
The series stars Corey Stoll (“House of Cards”) as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the head of a CDC team in New York City, who is sent to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak that killed all but four passengers and crew aboard a jumbo jet.
For a CDC scientist, Goodweather spends very little time in a lab. Lab work, of course, would be more realistic, but would make for boring TV. So, much of episode two is Goodweather and his crew searching for big box instead of studying the contagion. Oh, well.
Goodweather’s team includes Mia Maestro (“Alias”) and Sean Astin (“The Lord of the Rings”). David Bradley plays an elderly pawnshop owner who knows a thing or two about the virus, and Jonathan Hyde and Richard Sammel are the villains.
What del Toro, Hogan and Cuse are extremely good at here is suspense and horror. When a vampire strikes, it’s, well, striking -- visually and graphically. You may jump a time or two or three. That’s a “mark” of horror done well. Grade: B
Also debuting this week:
* “Backpackers,” 7:30 p.m. Monday, The CW. Twenty-somethings Noah Reid and Dillon Casey race across Europe in search of a missing bride-to-be and a journal.
* “Seed,” 8:30 p.m. Monday, The CW. Adam Korson plays an underachieving bachelor/bartender who connects with recipient families of his sperm.
* “Rush,” 8 p.m. Thursday, USA. Tom Ellis plays the title character, a “medical fixer” who privately caters to L.A.’s elite.
* “Satisfaction,” 9 p.m. Thursday, USA. Tom Pressmore (“The Glades”) stars opposite Stephanie Szostak in a drama exploring a marriage at its midpoint.
* “Married,” 9 p.m. Thursday, FX. Married couple Nat Faxon and Judy Greer balance life and love in this new comedy.
* “You’re the Worst,” 9:30 p.m. Thursday, FX. Toxic and self-destructive Aya Cash and Chris Geere attempt the impossible, a relationship.