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Nadja and Laszio, two vampires in gothic attire, laughing maniacally.
Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Laszlo (Matt Berry) in the FX series "What We Do in the Shadows." (Byron Cohen/FX)

Hissing Contest: the ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ Review

Imagine being not being able to enjoy the sun, not crashing a party unless invited (which defeats the purpose) and not being able to enjoy life’s little pleasures, like FOOD! Instead, you must subsist on the blood of others, enter only if invited and live by night. For some, that might seem like a nightmare, but for others, that seems like a dream. Sprinkle in a bit of kinda-immortality, the ability of flight and kick ass canines (hissss) and you might be living the dream… Now let’s drop you in Staten Island and put a film crew in your face at all times. What did I say about a nightmare?

In 2014, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement sought to turn a mirror on the serious and romantic world of vampires in order to poke fun at it… only there was one problem… it couldn’t see itself for what it really was. It was a true stroke of genius and initially the conceptualization of the movie was through the magic of TV. Through a steady diet of Real Housewives and Let The Right One In, the duo released a sleeper called ‘What We Do In The Shadows’. This was a piece of cinema that was spoke by friends of something that would rival ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ as a mockumentary. After watching it, you HAD to show it to others.

In this FX adaptation, lasting but 10 episodes we meet new Children of the Night. For anyone that bristles at cast changes, this might make your blood boil, but I hear that’s prime for a light snack. Who likes cold soup?

We open in on Guillermo (Harvey Guillen), the thirsty l-meaning familiar of Nandor “the Relentless” (Kayvan Novak), a vampire of the Ottoman Empire and the (or so he deludes himself into believing) Alpha of the homestead.

So commences the night, with Guillermo waking up his Ten Year Anniversary Master. Nandor couldn’t care less because in any aspect, mortal or undead, we all go through some version of ‘Don’t bother me until I get my bearings’ after we being roused from slumber. In what we could approximate as waking up and going to the office, Nandor (who seems the sunniest! of the quartet) summons Laszlo (Matty Berry), a vampire dandy who can see through the so called Captain O’ The Ship’s veneer… he. Was. Turned. By actually one of the most refreshing vampires I seen on screen in a good while- Nadja (Natasia Demetriou). She has a temper with Laszlo because these entwined romantic, charismatic blood sponges have an voracious appetite, so, all in all. they can be harlots. Correction, they are harlots… Oh, did I cite romantic and charismatic? There is one that that stands out for me the most and makes the most genius premise.

Vampires drain, as they are wont to do, but who ever said they only have to drain physical life? Life energy can be drained as well and actually that’s what makes this new group of vampires so special. We round out the roomies with Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), a resent energy vampire. In contrast to the maybe sartorially questionable choices the rest make, Colin is the most dangerous. He is a plain clothes day-walker and someone that we’ve all experienced. He won’t go for your neck but rather for your time, crafting the most soporific small talk, by the time you’re dead, you’d be happy to at least have a decent rest. Let’s call him the ‘sleeper cell’. As an added bonus, he’s the only type that can defeat one of his kind.

So, the table is set, but do we know the course?…

Nandor receives a missive (complete with wax seal) from The Baron (Doug Jones), stating he’ll be arriving for an impromptu visit. Both Laszlo and Nadja are chomping at the bit to welcome him, as they’ve both bedded him at different times. The table maybe set, but when you set don’t simply set out a Welcome Mat bought from a dollar store to a guest of honor. You set out the Red Carpet. That’s where Guillermo takes flight and hops on finding Virgin Blood at the only place that makes sense to him- a LARPING event.

Now for whatever reason, after the ‘Lightning Bolt’ video went viral in the early aughts, jokes about that would have fallen flat… yet somehow, they make it work! Plus, if you wanted to think about it on a deeper level of which we have to link things, it’s like a dying, then being resurrected!

In the meantime, Nadja is possibly stepping out on her beloved, as she believes one of her past loves bears the resemblance of possibly a human she continually stalks. No bellwether points to him as being him, but I wouldn’t put it past the series to take a left turn and really careen into that… and if they do, I would be so happy.

Ultimately, after a funny scene of Nandor wanting to by all that he can to welcome the Highest in a dollar store with Guillermo in tow and wanting Baron to see him as the prettiest and most willing Vamp,  we realize that him and his familiar are not to unfamiliar. I love this concept. It’s unbeknownst to them for me but they are closer in personality than they let on.

The housemates get the Virgins together, the clock is set.

Through an awkward exchange on a boat (which I thought was clearly amazing as a turn of expectation), Baron is delivered. I guess if you’re that ancient, Float First Class in terms of not doing a damn thing. Let them do all the heavy lifting.

Upon Baron’s arrival, we are treated to one of the most bloody but funny lines I’ve ever snorted at.

Overall, I am actually super, super, super happy with something that wanted to be a TV show but ended up as a movie. This has wings, and it know how to use them!

You can Watch ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ Wednesdays on FX

About Robert Kijowski

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