There’s always a day section at the beginning of most horror movies where the characters are introduced and you’re eased into the situation in the comforting light of day. Then the sun goes down and things get stabby. The Box followed this day and night convention nicely and improved slightly on the shonky debut of The Strain last week.
A lot of the mediocre elements of The Box were contained within the day section of the episode with the CDC team bumbling their way around airport crime scenes, Eph (Corey Stoll) going to see his family for a bit of melodrama and then visiting an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to admit he and his hairpiece have a drinking problem. There was also a bit of political manoeuvring with the four surviving members of the plane incident released from quarantine despite looking like death warmed up. Even a zombie would tell these people “you look TERRIBLE!” It turns out their release was a power play by one of the survivors, an influential lawyer, and the wealthy Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde channelling Mr Burns from The Simpsons) who is orchestrating the arrival of a creature known as The Master. Palmer comes face to face with The Master later in the episode and gives a reaction that says “I’ve made a huge mistake”.
A highlight of the drowsy daytime parts of The Box is when the jailed Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) gets word that his lawyer has come to visit. We know that Setrakian has history with the Master, and it turns out that it’s not his lawyer who has come for a chat but the sideways blinking guy from last week. The creepy blinker’s name is Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) who immediately identifies Setrakian, not by name, but by his concentration camp number. Eichorst mocks Setrakian and threatens that the Master has returned to get revenge. Bradley is doing his best Clint Eastwood in this scene and it works a treat. Sammel is doing the classic Nazi bad guy act but it works well in the context of the confrontation and sets up an excellent grudge match.
As the sun goes down in the dying minutes of The Box things finally get interesting. One of the plane survivors released from quarantine is a gothic rock star named Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy). While getting frisky with three groupies he gets an overwhelming impulse to bite one of their necks and he chomps down hard. The girls flee terrified while Bolivar licks droplets of blood off the floor like an alcoholic sucks beer out a booze drenched carpet (we’ve all been there, haven’t we?)
Across town Eph gets a phone call from the man that abused him at the airport during the press conference in the previous episode. The man wants to apologise now that his daughter is safe at home. Eph doesn’t believe that the man’s daughter has returned because he pronounced her dead on the plane and reasons that the man may be in shock and “seeing ghosts”. The girl is alive alright, or is she? Dad is about to find out the hard way when he finds her half submerged in the bathtub of a darkened bathroom looking absolutely terrifying. Dad goes to get his daughter out of the tub when she leaps up and trusts an appendage from her mouth that latches to her father’s neck and starts to drain blood. Once done, she detaches her organic straw and slinks back into the water while her father’s lifeless body bobs in the water. The gruesome side of The Strain is definitely still its best side.
Between light and darkness it’s pretty clear that the shadowy side of The Box is where the best stuff sat but it was dreadfully limited. The ratio of The Strain so far seems to be off balance with too much melodrama and not enough pulpy horror. Please sir, I want some gore.
Cameron Williams – follow Cam on Twitter here: @MrCamW