What We Do In The Shadows, based on a film of the same name in 2014, is a mockumentary series focusing on what vampires get up to in their spare time from the creative minds of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, of ‘Flight of the Conchords’ fame. Focusing on a group of vampires in Wellington, New Zealand, the film has grossed a cult following over the years, resulting in much trepidation around the FX TV adaptation which is currently in its second series. Rest-assured, this adaptation is a masterclass, running with what worked so well for the film and transforming its locale it to Staten Island, with Vulture magazine labelling it the funniest series on TV right now.
The film and the series are obviously similar to varying degrees, but the show never feels like a rehash of its parent material, with Clement and Waiti involved heavily in both series. The decision to move from Wellington to New York works in its favour, as it ensures the film benefits from its unique and unconventional setting; the contrasts between the two mean they act wonderfully as accompanying pieces of work, rather than the show just imitating its predecessor.
The show makes the most of its predominantly British leads, with Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, Toast of London) as sexually-charged vampire Laszlo an absolute hoot as ever, with his unique delivery of lines proving a constant delight. However, for many, the star of the show has been Natasia Demetriou, who is absolutely terrific as Nadja, Laszlo’s wife. Nadja’s cynicism is exceptional throughout both series of the show, with Demetriou having absolutely phenomenal chemistry with Berry and the other leads. Kayvan Novak (Four Lions) also gives a fun turn as the leader of the group, Nandor.
One of the most ingenious devices employed in the show to differentiate itself from other vampire shows (and its parent film) is the concept of an energy-vampire, in this case Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), who instead of sucking a victim’s blood, sucks the life out of a room when he enters it, feeding on the room’s energy. Bringing a different vibe to proceedings than the other leads, we often follow Colin around his workplace – to great comedic effect.
“The show has managed to remain at a compelling high standard for both its series to date, proving constantly delightful and inventive in equal measure.”
There are a wealth of guest stars across both series, though these never detract from proceedings. In series one, Waititi and Clement reprise their roles from the film and are joined by Dave Bautista, Tilda Swinton, and Evan Rachel Wood as members of the Vampiric Council, with Swinton in particular clearly having a blast in her extended cameo. In series two, we are treated to appearances from Mark Hamill, Benedict Wong, and Craig Robinson, who are all used brilliantly, though Hamill’s appearance is so far removed from his best known work in the Star Wars franchise, and showcases some real comedic chops, that it deserves special mention.
Of course, the series being set in the present day lends itself to all sorts of opportunities for our leads to exercise some out-of-their-time comedy. A particular highlight is an email chain-focused episode, while others include the vampires attending a Superbowl party, and Colin Robinson’s interactions with his contemporary workplace colleagues. The silliness of the premise works to the show’s advantage, and whilst nearly always hilarious with its constant visual gags and laugh out loud jokes, it doesn’t shy away from more serious moments, with Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) given some more dramatic material in the second season.
You might expect the show to outstay its welcome with its relatively slight premise, but it continually finds ingenious ways to use its fish-out-of-water concept and setting to great effect, whilst the chemistry between the leads means they are constantly watchable, and the number of visual gags and guest appearances warrants our attention.
What We Do In The Shadows has managed to remain at a compelling high standard for both its series to date, proving constantly delightful and inventive in equal measure. With a third season confirmed and more likely to follow, here’s hoping the vampires of Staten Island continue to delight with their bloody adventures and archaic traditions. It is certainly one of the surprise hits of recent years and one of the best comedies on TV presently – one you should definitely be checking out.
Check out our review of the second series here.
Words by Chris Connor