What We Do in the Shadows (2019 - )

How do you improve upon horror perfection? This was the question faced by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, co-writers and directors of 2014’s much-beloved vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, when their film was optioned as a TV series by FX. A giddy cross between Spinal Tap and Nosferatu, the film follows a group of vampires sharing a house together in present-day Wellington, New Zealand as they battle with various nemeses (werewolves, ex-girlfriends) and try to fit into a modern world that exists beyond their understanding. The Toronto-shot TV series, created by Clement, shares the film’s mockumentary format, following a group of equally befuddled vampire roommates living in Staten Island, NY. The group includes Nandor (Kayvan Novak), a former Iranian warlord, and his Antonio Banderas-worshipping familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), the filthy Laszlo (Matt Berry) and exasperated Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), who are a married couple, and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) an office worker/energy vampire who drains humans of their essence by being incredibly boring.

Any concerns about the show’s premise running out of steam have been abated in its first two seasons, with each episode building on the characters’ backstories with marvelous inventiveness. Recent highlights include Colin Robinson’s bland ascent into upper management (and all-consuming vampire domination) at his office job; the group’s attempts to host a vampire orgy, with messy results, and Laszlo’s adoption of a new identity as a small-town Pennsylvania bar owner “Jackie Daytona” in order to flee the wrath of a vampire named Jim (Mark Hamill) to whom he owes money. An ongoing highlight is the ascent of the mild-mannered Guillermo, who harbours a secret – he’s descended from the vampire hunter Van Helsing.

The show’s second season ends with a fancy event set at Toronto’s Opera House that goes awry in the most spectacular way, a fitting closing (for now) for a show that thrives on the intimacy of its well-drawn characters framed within a comically epic backstory – long may it reign.

Review by Alison Lang

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Canadian connection

Toronto, Ontario