What We Do in the Shadows, the show based on directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s film of the same name has taken the limelight from Twilight as the premier source for anyone’s vampire-based entertainment needs. The show could have gone under the radar as another dud in the oversaturated realm of horror-comedies, but hasn’t. Its pilot alone showcases its ability to breathe new life into the living dead.
Vampires have been around for centuries, in terms of fictional lifespan and the public consciousness alike. From Dracula to Barlow, to every baron in between, the archetype took a stake to the heart after collective realization — vampires aren’t that scary anymore.
Clement and Waititi ran with this reality, placing the ghouls in the one place scarier than Transylvania: Staten Island. The show takes the modern mockumentary style popularized by The Office and follows a pitiful pack of vamps behind on the times, led by Nandor the Relentless (he doesn’t relent), and his human familiar, Guillermo, who serves as a great eye into the world of his master.
Right off the bat, the show wants its audience to know that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. No one at their manor seems to be particularly good at anything, let alone being intimidating creatures of the night. The other vampire roommates, Laszlo, Nadja and Colin, aren’t your standard specters either — the former two have been married for millennia but are absurdly promiscuous, and the latter is an “energy vampire,” feeding on every unpleasant and drawn out cubicle conversation. It’s sheer ridiculousness — the dry jokes and awkwardness blend perfectly with the not-so-dry gore and visual gags that naturally accompany a band of bloodsuckers.
Even with over-the-top blood explosions or the occasional enthusiastic bat transformation, the special effects hold up. Many practical bits are reminiscent of a Monty Python film, preserving the humor while abandoning a blatant lack of budget. Instead of coming from cheesy CGI, the cringe comes from awkward character interactions too grating to look away from.
Add in the occasional inserted historic drawing or document with loose relevance to the vampires’ past — whether that be past locations or past lovers — and enough uniqueness is struck for the show to stand out from the batches of media with a similar style.
The first episode sees the group preparing their manor for a visit from the group’s vampire leader from the old world, who comes bearing a tall order. Without giving much more away, What We Do in the Shadows manages to pack plenty of its potential into its pilot. It’s driven by self-awareness and serves as a great way to fill the hole many feel Dunder Mifflin has left them with while being refreshing in its own right. It’s a new spin to an old favorite monster-of-the-week, and worth batting an eye at.