Ever since the debut of the film What We Do in the Shadows back in 2014, creatives Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement have continued to expand upon the universe ever since the films critical success and continuing popularity of the ‘mockumentary’ format. Flash forward to 2019, and after successful debut of ‘Wellington Paranormal’, a New Zealand show with ties to the film, we have FX’s new television show of the same name, What We Do in the Shadows. With the same creative team as the film, What We Do in the Shadows is a successful new spin on the film’s premise that manages to take a new setting and new characters and continue to use the same storytelling formats to a varying degree of success.
The main strength in this season premiere is how it takes everything that worked from the first film and expands on it even more, as well as some great new concepts added in for good measure. Written by Clement and Waititi and directed by Waititi, the show wastes no time in introducing what could be considered the ‘straight man’ in all of the comedy the show has to offer in the character of Guillermo, portrayed by Harvey Guillén. Guillermo is what is called a ‘Familiar’ in this shows mythos, and is the only human in the cast of Vampires living together as roommates, as a sort of indentured servant to another member of the main cast, the vampire Nandor, portrayed by Kayvan Novak. The first episode has more of a focus on his character, and is clearly molded after Waititi’s portrayal of his main character in the film, the sort of optimistic, somewhat innocent Vampire and his approach to their lifestyle as nothing out of the ordinary.
The other three roommates the show is also centered around are Nadja, the female vampire played by Natasia Demetriou who is in a relationship with Laszlo, the more eccentric vampire of the group played by Matt Berry. The last and probably my favorite is the ‘energy vampire’ Colin Robinson, played by Mark Proksch. Taking a different approach to than the other vampires, Colin is more of a subtle performance that is just as hilarious to watch as the other three vampire’s over dramatic antics and abilities. Whereas the other three fly and show their teeth and and display bombastic abilities, Colin’s lack of common Vampire traits and his overall status as black sheep of the group make for a hilarious new kind of character not shown in the film this tv show is based off of.
The mockumentary style of filmmaking the show takes works as well and is what makes the show so great. Seeing the vampire’s reactions to being filmed and the candid approach to their night life (since that’s the only time they can go out, obviously) makes for a lot of the humor in the second half of the episode. The documentary format in its editing also makes for a lot of the dry humor, almost every joke lands, no matter how subtle. Seeing the vampires address modern day life and its problems inter-spliced with talking heads almost always makes for a good time.
The visual and practical effects are one of the best parts, making the Vampire’s otherworldly abilities seem almost normal and hilarious to watch, and making something such as abducting people seem so mundane and hilarious when it is in fact terrifying.
Overall, the first episode of What We Do in the Shadows proves how well the source material of the film can be translated into a television show and perhaps even better, and despite having a different cast it still manages to be as entertaining, even if this first episode just keeps almost all of the same story beats as the film, albeit a few more new additions put in. I for one am excited to see where the rest of this ten episode first season goes. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Grade – 9/10
What We Do in the Shadows is now airing Wednesdays at 10 pm on FX. The Show stars Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillén, and Mark Proksch.