This entry will be spoilery for both the movie and TV show What We Do in the Shadows. I’ll try to be mindful of the TV spoilers (except for episode 7, which has had a ton of coverage), but I’m not losing sleep over “spoiling” a movie that’s been out for five years. You have been warned.
The first time I watched What We Do in the Shadows, I didn’t really like it. I’d heard so much about this hilarious film featuring vampire roommates in New Zealand, but it didn’t grab me.
But people whose opinions I trusted insisted the movie was awesome, so I gave it another shot.
And I noticed lots of subtle story and characterization details that I’d missed on first viewing. Jokes I hadn’t caught before finally landed.
Writer me was impressed that after all this time, someone had come up with a new approach to vampires. These roomies may be undead creatures of the night, but they still bitch at each other about mundane stuff like keeping up with the chores and putting towels down on the good furniture before draining victims.
And now, the movie is one of my desert island films. I won’t carry on about why, because there are few things less funny to me than someone trying to explain why they find a thing funny. I love it so much that I watched Thor: Ragnarok entirely because WWDITS star Taika Waititi directed it. And that movie did a few things I’d have thought were impossible: It made me like Thor and Chris Hemsworth, and it finally pushed me over the line between “The Avengers movies are a good time but I’m not obsessed” and “OK, now I’m obsessed. Dammit.”
But when I heard there was going to be a WWDITS TV show? I had doubts. Big ones. I’d heard that nobody from the movie would be involved with the show, and the initial teasers I saw weren’t all that impressive. And what could a TV show possibly add to such an awesomely offbeat movie, anyhow?
As the air date drew closer, I learned that Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement were very involved indeed. Phew. And the longer previews looked much more promising.
Even so, I was apprehensive when I sat down to watch the pilot. For some reason, I’m a tough audience for TV programs. I’m not sure what a show has to have to hold my interest, but very few recent shows have grabbed me. And I didn’t want a poorly-done show to taint my love for the movie.
Seven episodes in, I can honestly say that I haven’t been this hooked on a TV show since American Horror Story: Asylum.
The vampire roomies—Nandor, Nadja, and Laszlo— are in Staten Island, New York rather than Wellington, New Zealand. But they live in a big spooky house just like their movie counterparts did, and like their movie counterparts, they seem ill-equipped to exist in the modern world.
The show has one thing the movie did not have: Colin Robinson, a fourth housemate. He’s an energy vampire rather than a bloodsucker. You know that guy in your office who hangs over your cubicle wall and drones on and on about the most boring things possible until you can feel the ridges on your brain smoothing out? That’s Colin Robinson. He’s feeding off your energy.
While I think the show would still be good without Colin Robinson (sorry, but you must use his full name when talking about him; I don’t make the rules), tossing him into the mix kicks the whole thing into high gear. He’s a total prick, and he revels in it. And the “nightwalkers” he lives with can’t do a thing about it, because he’s more powerful than they are.
Fans of the movie have been clamoring for a film-TV show crossover, and on the day the seventh episode The Trial was set to air, Taika Waititi dropped anvil-sized Twitter hints that we were about to get our wish.
We did, and so much more. All three members of the movie’s vampire trio appeared in Staten Island because of reasons, but they weren’t alone. Tilda freaking Swinton appeared as her vampire character from Only Lovers Left Alive, and she was accompanied by Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Reubens, Danny Trejo, and Wesley Snipes as the vampire characters they’d portrayed in movies and TV shows. Oh, and Dave Bautista just happened to be there too.
I’d had no idea any of this was coming, and it may have been the most epic half-hour of TV I’ve ever watched. It would have been so easy for the show to just coast on having all those famous faces, but the episode was really funny. And it felt even more like a celebration because we’d all just learned that the show has been renewed for a second season.
The world is a steaming shitpile that seems to be getting worse by the day, if not the hour. Being able to escape into the world of What We Do in the Shadows every week has been an unexpected gift.