What We Do in the Shadows premiere review: It’s definitely not Twilight


FX mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows is certainly like no other vampire series on television. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen.

What We Do in the Shadows is weird. Like, capital W weird. The humor is dry, the situations uncomfortable, and the premise bizarre.

It’s a vampire series that throws out pretty much every preconceived notion about what a show involving the undead is supposed to be about. The characters aren’t broody, intriguing or cool. They’re kind of dumb, actually. And they’re not even attractive. (The horror!)

Let’s put it this way: Twilight or True Blood, this is not. And if that’s the kind of story you’re expecting, you’re going to be disappointed.

Instead, What We Do in the Shadows doubles down on the ridiculousness of the vampire experience, sending up virtually every traditional trope of the genre within the pilot’s scant 35 minutes. There’s over the top, wordless hissing and baring of fangs. There’s levitating for no reason. Everyone has stupidly long nails and sports increasingly large and dramatic outfits, complete with increasingly large necklines and lacy frills.

Basically, it’s Francis Ford Coppola by way of The Office.

"Being a vampire’s familiar is like being a best friend. Who is also a slave."

Our story follows four vampire roommates – Nandor, Lazzlo, Nadja and Colin – who’ve been living with one another on Staten Island for hundreds of years, too lazy to fulfill their original charge of dominating the New World. They’re worried over the impending visit of an Old World immortal, who will likely call them out on all their failures, but these big picture items repeatedly get overshadowed by other, more mundane concerns.

What We Do in the Shadows is driven as much by roommate hijinks as it is blood and gore, as Nandor nags the others about their unhygienic feeding practices and forces his put-upon familiar Guillermo to paper over windows in the house. Lazzlo and Nadja are together romantically, but she keeps stalking a human she believes to be a reincarnated version of her dead ex. House meetings abound, and group shopping trips to the local supermarket are pretty much the only entertainment. (The scene in which Nandor wants to buy as much glitter as possible so he can impress the Baron by painting it all over himself like Edward from Twilight is absolutely pitch perfect.)

The most unexpectedly hilarious aspect of the show is fourth roommate Colin, a psychic vampire who literally drains energy from those around him to survive. There’s something deeply hilarious about every scene featuring dishwater dull Colin in his ugly sweaters as he feeds by boring and irritating the folks he works with, or anyone who happens to come by the house.

Colin is intriguing because he is such an original take on traditional vampire lore, and he’s oddly the roommate I want to know the most about, immediately. (Also: Are there other daywalkers? Can we meet them?)

As far as pilots go, there isn’t a lot of plot in this one, and the episode spends most of its time setting up the tone of its universe and identifying the major players within it. Familiar Guillermo is patiently waiting for Nandor to reward his years of dedicated service by finally making him a vampire. (Nandor, for his part, gives Guillermo a glitter poster portrait of the two of them instead.)  Lazzlo and Nadja fret that the other will discover their previous sexual pasts with the Baron.

The Baron eventually arrives from Europe and – after a hilarious sequence in which none of the vampires can sign for his coffin because their fingers won’t work on touch screens – rises, in full-on, desiccated monster form. He looks like something straight out of the worst bits of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and it’s hard to take his threats to the group seriously when the episode has spent most of its time sending up these very same vampire tropes with unrestrained glee.

But, unless Nandor and friends conquer Staten Island, the Baron is probably going to kill them. So, season long plot solved, I guess?

Maybe, maybe not. Given that so little happens in this episode, it’s hard to know just yet precisely what kind of show What We Do in the Shadows is going to be. But its oddball feel, deadpan tone, and surprisingly on-the-nose commentary means that it’s earned a few episodes to figure it out.

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What We Do in the Shadows continues next Wednesday at 10pm on FX.