Sink your fangs into What We Do in the Shadows
What We Do in the Shadows is a deliciously silly, lovely thing, made by lovely, clever, quirky people (who just happen to be rock stars). It’s more sniggers than guffaws, but it makes me feel happy.
Vampires are sexy. Vampires are cool. From Edward Cullen to Lady Gaga’s Countess, pop-culture (and an entire generation of teens) adores the pale, confident predators who strike equal parts fear and desire into hearts and jugular veins nightly.
But the vampires in What We Do in the Shadows (WWDITS) are not those vampires. “These are not the glamorous, glitzy, shirtless vampires that you’ve grown accustomed to,” writer Stefani Robinson said in an interview with IGN. “It’s about the more mundane practicalities of being a vampire, which I just think is funnier.”
Better than the original?
WWDITS is a spinoff of the 2014 mockumentary film of the same name from New Zealand comedy geniuses Jemaine Clement (Legion, Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi, the Oscar-nominated director of Thor: Ragnarok. The mockumentary film holds 68th place on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of Top 100 Comedy Movies of All Time.
You needn’t have seen the movie to get straight into the series though. While the film was set in Wellington, New Zealand, the series takes us to Staten Island, New York, where a documentary crew goes behind the scenes to capture the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of a group of vampire housemates who’ve been rooming together for over a century – plenty of time to get on each other’s nerves.
Fans and critics alike are loving the show. It has a 94% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, where it’s #31 on the Best TV Shows of 2019 So Far. It also nabbed two 2019 Emmy nominations, for Cinematography and Sound Editing.
The Hollywood Reporter says it’s “wonderfully, absurdly over-the-top and hilarious” and “addictively, ridiculously funny — part droll look at everyday vamp-ness and part inspired family sitcom.”
NPR says WWDITS “puts the dead in deadpan… The four leads are great, the jokes crisp and fast and funny, and the visual effects are … folded seamlessly into the handheld-camera aesthetic so they seem all the more uncanny.”
The dream team
The series is written and directed by Jemaine and Taika, though Jemaine gets the “created by” credit, possibly because, as his partner in crime only half-joked at the SXSW premiere, it was Taika who said yes to the project, tricked Jemaine into doing it, and as soon as it was all set up, went off and did Thor, leaving Jemaine to do it by himself. Of course, that’s not strictly true, because Taika directed three of the show’s episodes himself, as did Jemaine.
The pair hired excellent help too, bringing in Emmy-nominated writers like Stefani Robinson and Paul Simms (Atlanta) and Marika Sawyer (Saturday Night Live) as well as multiple Emmy-winning writer-producer Josh Lieb (The Daily Show, The Simpsons).
Filmed mainly in Toronto (in the mansion that served as Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men movies), the series brings together some of the best comic talents on screen today.
It stars three British leads: BAFTA winners Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, Toast of London) and Kayvan Novak (Four Lions) alongside gifted sketch comedian Natasia Demetriou. WWDITS also stars Harvey Guillén (The Magicians), Beanie Feldstein (American Crime Story), motion capture character specialist Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water), and scene-stealer Mark Proksch (The Office, Better Call Saul) as energy vampire Colin Robinson.
There are also some sensational guest appearances in Episode 7, where the Vampiric Council features many of your favourite vampires, including Evan Rachel Wood (True Blood), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn), Wesley Snipes (Blade), Paul Reubens (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive). Taika, Jemaine and Jonny Brugh reprise their roles from the original film as Viago, Vladislav and Deacon, while Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords and Gravity Falls’ Mable) also feature.
That this outlandish and unexpectedly sweet little comedy series has drawn so many celeb cameos is testament to the cult status of the franchise and the clout that comes with anything Taika and Jemaine put their names to these days.
WWDITS, which has already been renewed for a second season, is actually the second spinoff series spawned by the movie, following hot on the cape-tails of last year’s New Zealand series, Wellington Paranormal. The much-hinted-at and long-awaited werewolf spinoff movie, We’re Wolves, sadly still seems stuck in pre-development, thanks to Taika’s ongoing Hollywood workload, including Thor: Love and Thunder and the satire Jojo Rabbit, where he plays Adolf Hitler.