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What We Do In The Shadows - Pilot - Review: It's Fangtastic

Warning: this review contains potty-mouthed vampire dialogue and some pretty terrible wordplay (that last one is all me and I apologize).

Welcome to What We Do In The Shadows, the TV series based on the 2014 mockumentary of the same name. Meet Guillermo, a vampire’s familiar, Nandor, whose first appearance is a little delayed thanks to a pesky sticky coffin latch, Laszlo and Nadja, who have a complicated relationship, and Colin Robinson, a psychic vampire who will drain you of your energy with banal monotone stories about the dullest of subjects. I’ve worked with a few Colins in my time.

Nandor, via the documentary crew, tells us a little more about himself. Once known as Nandor the relentless, because he would never relent, he was a soldier in the Ottoman Empire. Lots of pillaging happened, whether the villagers wanted it to or not. Also: he’s a bit of a big turkey, if you ask Nadja. Nandor is a big fan of basic hygiene, and in a shared house that means finishing a whole victim before moving on to a new one. No one wants half drunk people screaming in the cell.
What you should know about Laszlo is he was the most attractive man in his village – which was badly affected by leprosy and plague. Luckily only one part of his body was affected by leprosy, a part we can’t see – but Nadja has…
And long suffering Guillermo has been Nandor’s familiar for ten years. He works for nothing except the possibility of one day being rewarded with immortality. He’s the one who keeps the lawns tidy, boards up the windows, disposes of the bodies. You know, typical maintenance kind of stuff.

With the first episode written by Jemaine Clement and directed by Taika Waititi, fans of the original movie will know exactly what to expect and feel an assurance they won’t be disappointed. The first episode keeps the format of the original movie, introducing us to new characters in a new setting. Wellington has been replaced with Staten Island, but the dry Kiwi humor makes the journey intact. It’s drier than a desiccated corpse and side-splittingly hell-arious. Seriously, it’s bloody fangtastic. Batshit crazy. You’ll howl.

Yeah, I’m done.

After receiving a letter, the housemates prepare for the arrival of Baron Afanas. Speculation is rife as to why he has chosen to visit when he never leaves the old country. We learn Nadja once had a sexual relationship with the Baron. And that Laszlo did too. Although it’s unclear if Nadja and Laszlo are aware of the other’s tryst with the Baron.
Meanwhile Nadja has been seeing another man. Literally. She’s been watching who she thinks is her reincarnated boyfriend Gregor. If so, she has a lot to get used to. Like his name. It seems Jeff Suckler doesn’t quite do it for her the way the name Gregor did.

In preparation for the Baron’s visit, Nandor and Guillermo make sure to pick up plenty of colourful dust that sparkles (glitter), and creepy (crepe) paper. And it’s nice to see even a vampire appreciates a multipack.

With everything in order, and the Baron’s sarcophagus having arrived by boat, the final touch is the arrival of the two virgins at the house. Jenna and Jonathan think they’ve walked into the home of a pretty serious group of role-players and dismiss all the weirdness as method acting.

The Baron emerges from his coffin – and quickly drains June, Laszlo and Nadja’s familiar. He’s halfway through a speech on the old ways being over when he spots the film crew. What must be unnatural for an actor, to speak into the camera, is nailed every single time. Once assured it’s just people filming a documentary and to pretend they’re not there, the kind of theatrics only an ancient vampire could perform resume. The Baron himself moves with a familiar fluidity. He almost seems to float as he walks, and he tucks himself into the tight coffin with ease. It’s Doug Jones, of course, doing what he does best.
And the response of the housemates to the Baron’s expectations of them conquering the new world is:

Laszlo: “Basically, we’re fucked.”
Nadja: “Fucked.”

To make matters worse, the house won’t be feasting on virgin blood tonight. Colin’s already got to Jonathan and Jenna, draining them of their energy and thus their nutritional value.

Later, Nandor surprises Guillermo with a gift for his familiar anniversary, although the glitter portrait of himself as a vampire standing next to Nandor isn’t quite the gift he was hoping for. Nor is he too thrilled about Nandor’s belief that a mere two years have passed, when it has in fact been ten. It’s a frustrating and thankless job being a familiar, and one that isn’t as likely to end in immortality as Guillermo hopes.

Finally, while Jenna and Jonathan have survived and may return, it’s not looking so good for the Baron – who’s shaping up to be the series’ version of Petyr.

The beauty of What We Do In The Shadows is that the human moments are wonderfully mundane. When we see people they’re just humans going about their lives, and the contrast with the vampires' lives makes the immortals seem even more over the top and anachronistic. These are not vampires who have adapted well as the years have passed but who are all a good hundred years or so behind. Humor is found in the vampires trying to interact with the humans and I anticipate many laughs each episode as they fumble through the 21st century.

Have you been hypnotized into watching? Post your thoughts on the pilot below.

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