I’m always hesitant when a film is adapted into a television series. So often there’s just something about it that feels diminished, toothless compared to the cinematic original. What We Do in the Shadows is quite possibly one of the best horror comedies I’ve seen in the last five years and hearing that it was being turned into a series for FX was disconcerting to say the least. The mockumentary style antics of a group of vampires living together as roommates in the suburbs of New Zealand was unique, witty, even tongue-in-cheek at times and the idea that a diversion from that original group of blood suckers could be entertaining seemed far fetched.
Sometimes, I love being dead wrong.
Nadja (Natasha Demetriou) and Laszlo (Matt Berry) talk about endless monogamy.
What We Do in the Shadows on FX is a half hour mockumentary style sitcom in the vein of The Office or Parks and Rec but with those droll, everyday characters replaced by evil denizens of the night. Set in America rather than New Zealand, the series follows vampires Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo, and Colin Robinson as well as their loyal human familiar Guillermo as they just go through the motions of day to day life… okay, night to night life… unlife, whatever, damn. The faceless, nameless, likely expendable documentary crew is following these New World Vampires as they do what vampires do while also trying to fit in and function in the world.
Nandor (Kayvan Novak) was a Turkish warlord of the Ottoman Empire and is now the bossy, fussy, self declared head of the household along with his faithful servant of ten years Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) whose dream has been to become a Latino vampire ever since seeing Antonio Banderas in Interview with the Vampire. Meanwhile Nadja (Natasha Demetriou) and Laszlo (Matt Berry) are a married couple from the Dark Ages. Nadja is obsessed with a long lost lover whom she thinks has been reincarnated while Laszlo is literally the definition of a Beta male. Matt Berry has a knack for playing these cluelessly delusional, chauvinist characters that are so cringe worthy you just can’t help but love them and, if his performance in the pilot episode holds true, we are definitely looking at a series full of laughter if for no other reason than Laszlo.
Finally, Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) is a type of vampire we’re all familiar with even if we haven’t heard the term Psychic Vampire before. A self proclaimed daywalker, he feeds off of the lifeforce, the energy of those around him --human or vampire-- and his hunting ground is the cubicle farm in which he works. That close talking, uncomfortably awkward to deal with coworker who shares way too much and drones on endlessly, who just sort of materializes out of nowhere is the final vampire in the house and, quite possibly, the most terrifying of all.
Nandor (Kayvan Novak), The Relentless in search of that "sparkly dust."
What We Do in the Shadows expands upon the 2014 film not only by bringing these formerly stodgy, Old World vamps into the suburbs of Staten Island, but by continuing to explore the dynamics of a group of deathless monsters trying to live (look, there’s no better description) and survive in the 21st century. The struggles to fit in with modern society while being born, bred, and dominant in an age so far removed that it borders on ancient history creates lots of delightful misunderstandings and comic collisions between the worlds of the living and the undead. There’s also something to be said for the banality of the horror element. We know from the start that these characters are monsters with immense power who completely devalue human life much the same way we devalue the lives of
livestock and vermin. But there is so much naked humanity in their continuing efforts to explore, understand, and thrive amongst their main food source that you can’t help but root for them from the start.
Written and produced by What We Do in the Shadows creators Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, the series premiere stayed true to the source material and promises to be an expansive and well developed extension of that material. With a phenomenal appearance by legendary character/creature actor Doug Jones, the series premiere had everything fans could have asked for and leaves audiences wanting more. New episodes air Wednesday nights at 10pm (Eastern) on FX.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan's stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.