The last decade was saturated with TV shows and movies about vampires. From Twilight to True Blood to the Vampire Diaries, blood-sucking romances dominated our screens. Then it appeared as if the entertainment industry’s fascination with the (usually, very attractive) immortal beings, and their werewolf foes had dissipated. But one film, made in 2014 on a shoestring budget, remained a part of the cultural conversation long after it left theaters: What We Do in the Shadows, a New Zealand mockumentary that follows the lives of a group of vampires living under one household in present day. Over the course of the 85-minute-long film, the vampires fight over chore wheels, cleaning up blood stains in the house, and not luring humans who want to kill them back to their home. So, you know, normal roommate problems.
CREATORS: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
The 2014 cult comedy arrives on the small screen with the side-splittingly funny series adaptation we’ve been waiting for.
What We Do in the Shadows’ simple premise and wry humor made it a hit. There’s also the fact that it was written and directed by Jemaine Clement (half of the Flight of the Conchords musical duo) and Taika Waititi (director of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok)—who star as main characters in the film. A sequel seemed inevitable, and for a while, there was talk of one happening. Wellington Paranormal, a New Zealand spin-off series about the cops from the original film, began airing last year. But fans wanted to see the vampires again. Finally, a TV series based on the film is here.
What We Do in the Shadows premiered on FX Wednesday night. Clement and Waititi created the new show, but in a move that will likely disappoint many fans of the film, they do not return as main characters. However, the first episode of the series, which screened at SXSW in Austin, Texas, earlier this month to a very enthusiastic crowd, is very funny. And, thankfully, the show works perfectly without Clement and Waititi on-screen.
Like the 2014 film, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows series opens with an unidentified camera person documenting a home occupied by three vampires: Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak). Other characters in the Staten Island house include Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), a human “familiar” who serves Nandor, and instant fan-favorite Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), a vampire who sucks the energy out of the room. A noticeable, and welcome, change from the film is the inclusion of a lead woman vampire in the series. The 2014 film mainly followed male vampires (and werewolves), with the exception of Jackie (Jackie van Beek), a human familiar who wants to become a vampire. The series also makes the role of the human familiar more prominent—Guillermo lives at the house with the vampires and gets a lot of screen time. But overall, the FX series doesn’t deviate too far away from the source material. It still feels like the same world that we saw in the 2014 film, although we’re following different vampires now.
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While Clement and Waititi are not main characters in the new series, the pair are clearly a big part of the network’s push to attract viewers. At SXSW, Clement and Waititi introduced the screening of the pilot at Austin’s Paramount Theatre, which turned into a short improvised comedy set. The pair also stuck around for a Q&A with the cast of the new series. When asked about their absence from the new series, Clement and Waititi both said that they didn’t have an interest in reprising their roles, and Waititi quipped about not wanting to wear Victorian-style garments again. “It’s fun to play a vampire once or twice, but then having to play that character again and again in a TV version, I think would be too much for us,” Waititi told Vulture in a recent interview. “We decided to trick other actors into doing that.”
The new cast shines in the first episode of Shadows, which Waititi directed. Berry, Demetriou, Novak, Guillén, and Proksch all bring something completely different to the table. Proksch’s “energy-sucking vampire,” who feels like a character fit for The Office, was a hit with the audience at SXSW. The idea for the character was inspired by real humans who suck the energy out of the room, Clement said at the festival. The series has the potential to become the best new comedy series on TV. It already has a built-in fanbase, an interesting backstory, and a relatable premise about the difficulties of living with other people. Vampires are back, and this time they don’t sparkle—unless they choose to wear glitter.