Ever since What We Do in the Shadows debuted in 2014, creatives Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement have continued to expand upon the idea of showing vampires in mockumentary form. Flash forward to 2019, and after the 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. In addition, it takes a new setting and new characters and continues to use the same storytelling formats to a varying degree of success.
The main strength in this season premiere is how it expands on what worked in the film even more. Additionally, the creators add in some great new concepts for good measure. Written by Clement and Waititi and directed by Waititi, the show wastes no time in introducing the ‘straight man’ in the character of Guillermo (Harvey Guillén). Guillermo is the only human in the cast of Vampires living together as roommates. He is a sort of indentured servant to another member of the main cast, the vampire Nandor (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 show centers around a few other roommates: Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), the female vampire who is in a relationship with Laszlo (Matt Berry), the more eccentric vampire of the group. The last and probably my favorite is the ‘energy vampire’ Colin Robinson (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 overdramatic antics and abilities. Whereas the other three fly and show their teeth 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 on.
The mockumentary style of filmmaking the show takes works as well and is what makes the show so great. Seeing the vampires’ candid approach to their nightlife 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. 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. I for one am excited to see where the rest of this first season goes. – Ernesto Valenzuela
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.