What We Do in the Shadows—the television spin-off of New Zealand’s best-ever cult vampire mockumentary—is absolutely delightful and I would be failing in my duties as a pop cultural critic if I didn’t strongly advise that you watch it.
And yes, you can watch it without having seen the original film.
The 2014 mockumentary was written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who also starred as Vladislav and Viago, respectively, two centuries-old vampires. Together with their roommates and fellow vampires, Deacon and the 8,000-year-old Petyr, they attempt to cope with modern life in Wellington, New Zealand. How can you hit the clubs when the bouncers won’t expressly invite you in? How can you feed on the blood of virgins when virginity has become decidedly less popular in the 21st Century?
You might think that the movie would exhaust this subject, but happily you’d be wrong! I watched the pilot for FX’s What We Do in the Shadows series at New York Comic-Con last October, and I’ve been looking forward to continuing the show ever since. The show both honors the original movie takes its new characters in surprising directions.
The series introduces three new vampires: Nandor The Relentless (Kayvan Novak), who seems the most excited for the documentary, along with romantic partners Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou). Matt Berry might out-Matt-Berry himself as Laszlo, and his relationship with Nadja is funny and touching. It’s also fantastic to see how the dynamic expands by adding a female creature of the night, compared to the film’s all-male crew of vampires.
Rounding out the group is Nandor’s human familiar/servant, Guillermo (Harvey Guillen). Guillermo is, frankly, adorable, and his dedication to Nandor immediately becomes the heart of the show.
The series kicks off when a visit from vampire leader “Baron Afanas” throws the roommates into turmoil—the Baron sent them to the New World hundreds of years ago, and he’s a trifle confused about why they haven’t conquered it yet.
The show’s commitment to honoring both the deep silliness of the humor and the visceral horror (there is a lot of blood) of vampire life creates a wonderful tension that might be even stronger than the original film’s. Possibly best of all, however, is the location change. Watching these bloodsucking monsters navigate life in New York (where, let’s face it, a vampire is only like the fifth weirdest thing you’re going to see on the subway) is endlessly fun.
There are a few other elements at work that I am loathe to spoil but trust me when I say that you want to invite this show into your home, and indeed, your heart. (OK, fine, I’ll say this: Mark Proksch as Colin Robinson may be my favorite non-Tick television character of the year, but seriously I don’t want to give anything else about him away.)
Here, have a trailer:
The 10-episode series premieres tonight on FX at 10pm. The show was written by Jemaine Clement, Stefani Robinson, and Tom Scharpling, and directed by International Treasure Taika Waititi.