Vampire Weekday

In ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ (the Series), Dysfunctional Vampires on Staten Island

The pale dead girl lies in her dorm room bed. A fly crawls across one of her open eyes. Her roommate, trying in vain to wake her, screams.

It gets funnier from there.

Welcome to What We Do In The Shadows, the TV Version. If you’ve been watching it, it’s likely that you took a chance on the show because you are a fan of the movie. If you’re unfamiliar with the movie, a brief overview is necessary. The movie has become a cult favorite–maybe even a bona fide Cult Classic. It’s about four socially awkward vampires who live together. That’s the plot; there’s a bit of a subplot involving one of the vampires being in love with an elderly human lady, but other than that, it’s just a collection of scenes featuring these four vampires hanging out.

What We Do In the Shadows, the movie, is decidedly a New Zealand Comedy. Jemaine Clement (half of Flight of The Conchords, but you knew that) and Taika Waititi (the man responsible for directing the best Thor movie–which you probably knew–and playing Korg, the best supporting character in that movie) put together the show. They co-wrote it, co-directed it, and co-star in it, it takes place in Wellington, and it is as low-key as the Flight of The Conchords TV show. It’s very, very funny, and it’s absolutely best watched on TV.

Clement and Waititi  also created the What We Do In The Shadows TV show. It’s also about four socially awkward vampires who live together. Only this group lives in the U.S., on Staten Island. And none of them are originally from New Zealand. Also, one of the vampires has a “familiar”, a human that does stuff for the vampire during the daylight hour. Guillermo is his name, played by Harvey Guillén. He definitely looks like and has the same vampire as Guillermo del Toro; he and his desire to be “turned” are two of the best things about the TV version. “Being a vampire’s familiar is like being a best friend,” he says. “Who’s also a slave.”

The obvious questions about any TV show based on a movie are “Why?” and “Is it any good?” There really is no good reason for an American version of What We Do In The Shadows. This scene, featuring Flight of The Conchords’ Rhys Darby, really works because like the bulk of the movie, it’s literally a comedy of Wellington manners:

There is, of course, an Americanized version of this scene in the TV show, and it answers the second question. This time, a vampire and a werewolf duel; the vampire gets to choose a weapon, and telling you any more would ruin a very, very funny scene. Nick Kroll shows up as Simon the Devious, the Vampire King of Manhattan; his court included such noteworthy vampires as Evil Steve, Chunt, Wesley Sikes, and “the Freak Sisters–no relation”. Viewers have gotten a tour of vampire Lazlo’s (played by Matt Berry, reason enough to watch) anatomically correct topiary garden.

Natasia Demetriou and Matt Berry star in ‘What We Do In The Shadows.’

And since this is a show about bloodsucking fiends, there are creepy moments. They come out of nowhere and are pretty effective. “Energy Vampire” Colin Robinson, played by Mark Proksch, is a funny take on the standard vamp, draining the lifeforce from his victims by drawing them into the most inane conversations possible.  “Remind me to email you a link to a Slate article about the millennial housing crisis,” he tells one victim. That’s funny stuff, but the first glimpse of his glowing, predatory eyes as he’s doing his work is downright unsettling.

Add all of this to what’s looking like a structured plotline–the vampires are plotting to take over the U.S., which is bit of a challenge because, as Lazlo says, “the place is fucking massive”–and you get a rarity: a good show based on a good movie.

Jason Avant

Jason Avant is a writer and editor based in Carlsbad, California. He’s written for and edited a bunch of websites that no longer exist, and occasionally contributes to one that does: Roads and Kingdoms.

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