I wrote about the movie What We Do in the Shadows on my Scarlet Order blog over seven years ago. Since then, there have been four seasons of the television series inspired by the movie on the FX network. On the Scarlet Order blog, I mentioned that I can be skeptical of horror comedies because they often end up being campy or silly. What We Do in the Shadows proved to be a pleasant surprise. There was good comic timing and you could sense the love the filmmakers had for the genre they were poking fun at. The upshot is that you felt like the people who made the film were laughing with fellow vampire fans at the genre’s tropes, rather than making fun of vampire fans. I was also a little hesitant to dive into the TV series for the same reason. I was concerned that a TV adaptation would go for cheap laughs and corny gags over thoughtful, albeit funny writing. I finally sat down to watch the first three seasons last year and I just finished the fourth season and I’m glad to say my concerns were, for the most part, unfounded.
Like the original movie, the television series What We Do in the Shadows follows a group of vampire roommates. Although set in the same world as the movie, the series is set in a different location and we follow different vampires. The movie was set in New Zealand. Now we’re in Staten Island, New York. The original movie followed a mocumentary format. The TV series takes more a reality-show format with a camera crew following our vampires through their night-to-night lives.
The roommates are Nandor the Relentless played by Kayvan Novak. At one point, he was the leader of a principality in southern Iran and a fierce warrior. 760 years later, he’s the self-appointed head of the household. His familiar, Guillermo de la Cruz played by Harvey Guillén is the only human in the group. Guillermo’s one desire is to become a vampire, but it turns out he has a family secret that puts him at odds with that goal. Living in the house with Nandor are husband and wife Laszlo Cravensworth and Nadja of Antipaxos played by Matt Berry and Natasia Demetriou. Demetriou also plays the ghost of Nadja, who started wandering the earth when Nadja became a vampire. She now possesses a doll. Rounding out the roommates is Mark Proksch as Colin Robinson, an energy vampire who makes most of the money for the household by working at dull office jobs.
Over the four years of the series so far, it’s continued to poke fun at vampire tropes alongside the trials and tribulations of people sharing a house. Still, the series delivers characters we care about. Nandor, for example, sees himself as a great, verile lover who can seduce anyone. However, he actually has rather poor luck in the romance department and we sympathize with him because Novak gives him an air of vulnerability. Nadja and Laszlo make power plays in the vampire world and start money making schemes, playing on those familiar tropes, but we discover they’re not very good at those ventures. They bicker, but there’s a feeling that the two really care about each other. In many ways, Guillermo is the show’s heart as the longsuffering human who just wants to be recognized for his loyalty but feels ignored by those he serves.
Does it always work? Some episodes are better than others. Some jokes play better than others. Still, for a TV series in its fourth season, it’s held up and been consistently a fun watch that remembers to tell a good story.
My vampire fiction isn’t comedy, but I think humor is an important element in horror or serious supernatural fiction. It helps to break the tension and it helps us relate to the characters and care about them. Because of that, I like seeing humor done well. Good comedy gives us enough drama to increase the stakes, so to speak. Good drama needs a little humor to help you relate in the same way. You can learn more about my vampire fiction at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order