When they first announced that a TV series was being developed of the 2014 quirky New Zealand vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows I was initially quite worried over the idea. Not only is the original film one of my favourite comedies of all time, but American Networks and film-makers don’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to adapting media from other countries. However, with news that Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, plus some other members of the original creative team, were still very much involved in the development of the project it gave me hope.
The series follows the same structure as the original film; a team of documentary filmmakers following around a group of four old, out of touch, aristocratic vampires as they struggle with the modern world around them. Same camera style, same editing, same comedic vampire tropes, same rickety mansion. But the series takes the plot from Wellington, New Zealand to Staten Island New York. There the similarities end as this group of vampires has a very different dynamic to that of the quartet in the original film.
You have Nandor (Kayvan Novak), a former Vlad the Impaler style conqueror of the ancient world struggling to get the respect and following that he once had. This is not helped by his bumbling familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillen), a vampire fanboy just longing for the day that his master will turn him into a sexy Latino vamp like Antonio Banderas in Interview With the Vampire. Laszlo, another vampire who looks, acts and sounds exactly like Matt Berry (this sounds like a criticism but it’s not. Matt Berry is charisma personified and I would pay actual money to listen to him read the phone book, he’s amazing) and his loooooooong suffering wife Nadja (Natasia Demetriou). They have been married for hundreds of years so tensions can run a little high.
But the main development and expansion of the lore comes in the form of Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), an energy vampire; presenting himself as a dull office drone Colin feeds on the psychic energy of those around him by either boring his victims to death or annoying them.
The original film only presented a rough semblance of a plot, mainly relying on improvisation from some incredibly talented and funny actors. You can’t really get away with that when it comes to a full syndicated series so the writers do give there show much more of a structure for 10 episodes; The group has been dispatched to the New World to subjugate the human race in the name of the Vampire Council. However, it’s been over a hundred years and they still haven’t gotten round to it yet. Instead, they would rather do literally anything else. Throughout the series we see them go up against local bureaucracy, werewolves, other vampires and mostly each other’s patience. The chemistry between the gang is great, particularly with Berry and Demetriou who steal most scenes they are in. The jokes are snappy, smart and brilliantly dark, still playing on the more Gothic comedic elements of the vampire mythos. The episodes in this first series range from good to great to outright hilarious; some jokes actually made me laugh so much I had to pause the episode whilst I stopped. One episode, in particular, featured so many cameos from other vampire shows and films (implying in this universe they are all canon) that it’ll make your head spin. From hunting out virgins in the local LARPing community to planning epic orgies it’s just a joy to watch these characters do their thing.
If you loved the film, if you love vampire and horror films generally, and especially if you love Matt Berry (which you all should) you need to give this series a go. It takes the dark and hilarious vampire underworld world of the original film and expands upon it brilliantly, with writing that is incredibly clever and genuinely amusing. It’s well worth your investment and I hope we get more. This series does not suck, which is ironic considering all the vampires.
[Guest article by Pip Mason]