What We Do in the Shadows review: A star-studded bit of vampire history


FX’s What We Do in the Shadows stages a celebrity vampire reunion that’s such fun, it doesn’t matter that the episode itself is kind of pointless.

Since its premiere, FX’s mockumentary comedy What We Do in the Shadows has reveled in sending up virtually every known vampire trope from television and film, usually to great and hilarious effect.

In “The Trial,” the show takes this all to the next level, lining up a star-studded cast of A-list vampire alumni actors and sending them out to judge Nandor, Nadja, and Lazzlo’s crimes. The episode itself is almost completely devoid of plot, but it’s probably the funniest installment of the series yet.

In theory, this esteemed vampire council has come together to investigate the mysterious death of “the Baron,” the ancient European vampire who charged our lazy Staten Island roommates with conquering the new world.

Fortunately – or not, depending on your perspective – the Baron was burned to a crisp by some errant sunlight before he could realize the depth of Nandor, Nadja, and Lazzlo’s failures. Since this event occurred while everyone was riotously high on “drug blood” after a (hilarious) night of partying, no one actually remembers precisely what happened.

(Spoiler alert: All of this is Guillermo’s fault. Accidentally of course.)

Our hungover roommates barely have time to bury the Baron’s charred remains, let alone get their stories straight (“Did we murder him?”) before they’re summoned to appear before the vampire council and answer for their supposed crimes.

One has to assume that the Baron’s creepy familiar is the person who narced on our vampire faves, but it sort of doesn’t matter because the technicalities of their trial aren’t exactly the point of this episode.

Instead, it’s the seemingly never-ending stream of hilarious celebrity cameos involved and in-jokes. There’s a dance sequence clearly inspired by Suspiria, a tribunal made up of a bizarrely perfect grouping of actors who’ve played the undead in recent film or television productions, and there’s even a connection that harkens back to the original film this show is based on.

Many fans wondered when this show began whether we’d ever see any characters from the What We Do in the Shadows movie cross over into this small screen universe. And, now we have.

Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi, and Jonny Brugh appear as part of the vampire tribunal, ostensibly as their characters from the original film. They’re joined by an all-star undead roster that includes Evan Rachel Wood from True Blood, Paul Reubens from the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Danny Trejo from From Dusk Till Dawn and a Skype-in from Wesley Snipes, who played the half-human, half-vampire hybrid in Blade.

Tilda Swinton herself – who plays a vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive – leads the group in her singularly dramatic fashion. There are shoutouts to Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys), Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt (Interview with the Vampire), and Robert Pattinson (Twilight).

The results? Hilarious.

However, I have questions. Are these folks just playing vampires in movies…for fun? Is everyone who plays a cinematic version of one of these creatures also a real vampire? We need to see more of this corner of this universe is what I’m saying.

Most of the tribunal sequence involves this outstanding group of actors riffing with one another, joking about everything from their vampire history to Wesley Snipes’ glitch Skype connection.

Eventually, Nandor and company are declared guilty, even after Guillermo confesses his involvement in the Baron’s death. (Turns out that no one believes him capable of killing a vampire, and thinks he’s simply trying to protect his master.) Though the Staten Island vampires are ultimately sentenced to death – and Guillermo is deemed “lunch” – everything turns out okay in the end, thanks to the same combination of ridiculousness that fuels much of the series.

Daywalker roommate Colin Robinson shows up with a patio umbrella to shield the pit in which Nandor, Nadja, and Lazzlo are sentenced to die — which he plans to return after this use, by the way. You know, you can do that with non-food items.

Guillermo escapes the council’s lair by killing his second vampire in roughly 36 hours, brandishing a cross that startles him back into a stake. Take that, Danny Trejo.

As the episode closes on an image of Colin and Guillermo walking the vampires home while carried in a box like some feral kittens they found on the side of the road, we have to wonder – what’s next?

Will the vampire council notice or care that Nandor and friends escaped a death sentence? Or is this simply the end of the first phase of their story?

Free of the Baron and his world domination plans and on something like friendly terms with Colin, what’s next for them all?

There are three more episodes of this season for us to find out.

Next. 10 Game of Thrones cocktails to get you through the final season. dark

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