There’s something soothing about watching a bunch of vampires be absolute morons on television every week. They’re undead, capable of incredible feats, dark magic, and, in most cases, have been alive for hundreds of years. They should possess at least a little more finesse than Michael Scott. And yet, the bloodsucking clowns of What We Do in the Shadows are so very bad at being immortal monsters, which means they are excellent at comedy.
FX’s TV series, based on the Taika Waititi film of the same name, returned for a second season just as funny as ever. Like the movie, the show follows a trio of vampires — this time, they live on Staten Island as opposed to the New Zealand of the films — living together in a derelict old manor. Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) are hundreds of years old and also total dorks. They’re bad at most things they do, but as long as they don’t accidentally stumble into sunlight or fall on a wooden stake, they’ll get over it. (It turns out, vampirism is a very potent form of failing upward.)
oddly cathartic while living in isolation
While this is extremely similar to the movie it’s based on, the TV version of What We Do in the Shadows fleshes out its mockumentary antics with a few additions to the formula: namely, a familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) who serves them in hopes of becoming a vampire, and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), an “energy vampire” who looks normal but feeds off the ambient misery of everyone around him.
Colin and Guillermo are the reason What We Do in the Shadows works as a show, two regular-looking dudes juxtaposed against their goth reality show roommates that also have their own normcore sociopathic tendencies. Colin, in particular, gives the show a feeling very similar to The Office. As an energy vampire, he feeds off everyone’s annoyance and goes out of his way to be obnoxiously corny and irritating. (One very good Colin bit involves him incessantly saying “updog” as if it were a joke no one had ever heard before.)
Like the best work of show creator Jemaine Clement (who co-wrote the film with Waititi), there’s a lot of fun to be had with taking the iconography of the occult and supernatural and putting them in front of the mundanity of the mockumentary. What happens when they’re haunted by a very petty ghost? Or deal with animal control when it captures one of them in bat form? Or accidentally get a pet zombie?
Watching What We Do in the Shadows is oddly cathartic while social distancing. Maybe it’s because the vampires of the show are also isolated in a fashion, unable to see the sunlight and absolutely kooky as a result. Maybe, What We Do in the Shadows argues, immortality wouldn’t make you cool or fearsome, but instead really freaking weird. In that way, it’s kind of like watching a reality show about patently awful people. Maybe you have your flaws, but hey: you’re not that bad!
If you’ve spent any of the last month on Twitter, the corniest social network, you might have noticed a meme going around where people ask each other to pick their preferred “quarantine house.” Simply put, the tweets list groups of people, real or fictional, and asks which set you would like to shack up with while social distancing. Like all bad memes, there’s very little logic to them other than asking people to argue for the poster’s amusement, and this makes them consistently unfunny — at least until the lists get so baffling that the meme loops around to becoming funny again.
It’s a bad meme, but it’s one that feels appropriate for understanding why What We Do in the Shadows is so fun to watch. Like in this silly Twitter exercise, no one in their right mind would probably want to share a home with a bunch of vampires. But after watching What We Do in the Shadows, why not? It could be fun. I wouldn’t recommend vampirism as a quarantine hobby, but being weirder? Sure. We could stand to be a little weirder.