Derived from the eponymous feature film, the series created by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi deserved a spotlight – but not too strong.
Doesn’t their deadly sensitivity to sunlight harm humorous vampires seeking audiences? This is not what the broadcaster FX seems to have thought, which has already broadcast four seasons of this crazy comedy (visible here on Canal +). If the movie What We Do in the Shadows met with great critical success, especially during its first screening at the Sundance festival in 2014, the mockumentary on these strange creatures never knew how to vampirize the box office. This probably explains the suspension, for an indefinite period, of a sequel devoted to werewolves, We’re Wolvesoften mentioned by Waititi and Clement in interviews.
vampire state building
By switching to the series format, the two producers have kept the format of the mockumentary, in a way that is less and less supported over the seasons, but above all they have changed location and cast. Exit New Zealand and the two leading producers, place in New Jersey and a cast with a strong British accent. Three of the five main roles are indeed interpreted by English actors, supporting the theory of their migration from the old continent to the United States a few centuries ago, with the aim of conquering this territory for their fellows.
The first episode unveils a gallery of monsters and their true nature: that of idle vampires, overwhelmed by the modern world, and far too busy satisfying their own experiments and fantasies to try their hand at invading such a vast country. . Their pride is limited to the conquest of two surrounding houses, whose neighbors they regularly hypnotize.
Out of place in the framework of the suburban houses of New Jersey, their mansion is more like a ruin than the castle of Dracula. Yet this is where their improbable collocation tries to adapt, both to each other and to the outside world. And it is also in this disturbing place that a television crew begins its report on this secret society, light years away from the terrifying myths of their brood.
A cast with bite
The great strength of What We Do in the Shadows, it is above all its cast, starting with its headliner. Self-proclaimed leader, because former ruler of a vanished kingdom (Al-Quolanudar, supposedly in southern Iran), Nandor (Kayvan Novak, seen in Four Lions) is also terribly nostalgic. And clumsy with the people he loves, while a certain loneliness secretly devours him. One of his few connections to the world today is his passion for the Dream Team, the USA basketball team at the 1992 Olympics.
Leslie “Laszlo” Cravensworth (Matt Berry, the eccentric boss in The IT Crowd) was an English aristocrat, converted to vampirism by the one who today shares his life, Nadja. He has kept from his past life a pronounced taste for sex, in all its forms, but also music, poetry and various forms of art. At first glance rather unpleasant with his pedantic elocution and exasperating self-confidence, he will turn out to be much more sensitive and sympathetic than expected. One of his prides is a hat made from the skin of a witch’s buttocks, stricken with a curse.
Nadja Antipaxos (Natasia Demetriou, seen in the series Stath Lets Flats) is like the husband she chose for herself: always eager for sex, but also a singer at times, forming an unbearable duo with Laszlo. Being the only representative of her kind within the vampiric roommate, she sometimes finds it difficult to bear the fights of ego… when she does not participate in them herself. His miserable past to excess, rich in anecdotes often bathed in black humor, also makes him a touching character. His own ghost will be embodied in a doll who will become his confidante.
Intruder in the coffin
Guillermo de la Cruz (Harvey Guillén, seen in the film The Internship) is the “familiar” of Nandor, but by extension of all its hosts. For ten years now, he has been in charge of the stewardship of the manor, serving his master as best he can, waiting in vain for recognition and above all for his transformation into a being of the night. This is after watching the movie Interview with a Vampire (soon adapted in series too), largely charmed by the character of Antonio Banderas, that this strange vocation came to him. But he will gradually discover his true nature, very little compatible with his dreams, while asserting himself more and more. An adorable character, who can however also be surprisingly devious or calculating.
Last main role, but not least: Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch, Nate Nickerson in The Officealso seen in Better Call Saul). Unlike his housemates, he is an energy vampire. He relies on his ability to greatly annoy people with his conversation, and then feeds off of their life energy. Able to go out in broad daylight, he manages to bring in income for the entire group. He even manages to get promotions while he only spoils the atmosphere at his employer. His radical transformation at the end of the first three seasons comes at the end of dramatic events, which again make this character moving.
An off beat
The life of this night owl group gives rise to often random adventures, following the histrionics of the actors, the delayed gags sometimes skilfully prepared over several episodes, or quite simply the desire of the showrunners to involve a crowd of guests. Among the most famous, it is impossible not to mention Mark Hamill (Star Wars) completely amazing. The actor seems possessed by his role as a vampire, a former hotel manager with whom Laszlo left a substantial slate.
Craig Robinson (the inimitable bandit at the Pontiacs in Brooklyn Nine-Nine) portrays a vampire hunter at the head of a group of young people who are a little too curious and who will last a long time. And, more recently, Sofia Coppola, Thomas Mars and Jim Jarmusch, in their own roles, have been entitled to treatment that can be described as “VIP”.
If some gags will remain engraved forever as among the funniest of the life of these nocturnal creatures (the fight against the werewolf, unforgettable, the meetings with other mythical creatures or the winks to the references of the genre), What We Do in the Shadows sometimes gets lost in a too easy vulgarity, but without ever losing us completely. Because the show manages to create a real link between the viewer and each of these characters, for the reasons mentioned above, but also thanks to its strange, offbeat, almost timeless atmosphere.
A little taste of immortality in short. And making these poor devils a real family, the one we would like to join even if it means losing our soul, is undoubtedly the greatest guarantee of success for this series.