What We Do in the Shadows Season 1 review

Mike Devine takes a look at the new series What We Do in the Shadows. Is it worth checking out, Mike?

Spun out of the 2014 film of the same name, but focused on a new set of vampires, What We Do in the Shadows is FX’s mockumentary/horror/comedy series.

Instead of the movie’s New Zealand, the television show’s playground is New York’s Staten Island (best known to nerds of a certain age as the secret headquarters of the GI Joe team!) where vampire roommates bumble through day-to-day existence.

The characters are delightful.  Nandar (Kayvan Novack) is the not-so-imposing head of household, a wonderful mix of Vlad the Impaler and Rimmer from Red Dwarf.  Vampire spouses self-absorbed windbag Laszlo (Matt Berry) and clever-but-nonchalant Nadja (Natasha Demetriou) provide much of the show’s flavor.  Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) is a day-walking energy vampire, who takes energy from people, and sometimes other vampires, by boring them.  Providing the human element is Guillermo (Harvey Guillen), Nandar’s overburdened, meek-but-dutiful “familiar,” a manservant promised to be turned into a vampire.

Unlike other mockumentaries, where the film crew are ignored, here they are acknowledged and occasionally consumed.

It’s a comedy, but the laughs aren’t the kind that machine gun.  Instead, there’s a dark wittiness that coats everything, to make you grin uncontrollably for 22 minutes.  Nandar’s interactions with poor Guillermo; Laszlo’s topiary hobby; Nadja’s disappointment that a reincarnated lover is now a dud and Colin Robinson’s rivalry with another energy vampire are all themes that build to make a brilliant show.

It is a horror material sourced show, but a comedy, so rubber bats on wires and bad special effects could have worked just fine.  But the material is played up by use of wonderful CGI effects and as well as practical ones.  The person-to-bat transformations are great.  When characters fly, there are probably digitally erased wires (just speculation on my part).  The practical makeup used for Doug Jones’ monstrous houseguest Baron Afanas is perfectly opposed to the giddy tension his character creates with the other vampires.

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Set designs create a wonderful atmosphere for everything.  The house is obviously a large and sturdy one from the outside, with an interior that looks outdated and dingy, but oddly upscale.

The costumers are kept busy, with Nandar, Laszlo and Nadja all wearing clothing that looks displaced by centuries.  Colin Robinson’s attire is shoehorned somewhere between office nerd and uncool dad.

For those who are disappointed that the movie cast isn’t in the show, don’t worry.  As mentioned, it’s set in the same continuity and the original actors get a delicious extended cameo in one episode.  The show is run by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), the actors/creators of the movie.  This keeps the show and the movies in the same wavelength.

Like other science fiction comedies, such as TBS’ People of Earth, this one just showed up one day without much promotion.  Even though it follows in the wake of a cult hit, not much stir surrounded its premiere. I’m hoping that it gains enough momentum and viewers to make it to a third season, which People of Earth didn’t.

Mike Devine is a geek who likes GI Joe, Star Wars, chocolate, and many pop culture things.  He is a reoccurring writer for joeaday.com and can’t stop customizing figures.  He has previously worked at the sub-sub-sub contractor level for comic book companies, doing prep work for colorists, as well as some lettering.

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