'What We Do In The Shadows' Review: New Country, New House, Same Mockumentary Vampire Laughs [SXSW]

Entire television series shouldn't be critiqued on pilots alone, but that's all What We Do In The Shadows had to offer eager South By Southwest victims (aside from Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's uproarious improv introduction). Episodics often require a few inaugural chapters before hitting momentum strides, and pilots bare the weight of hypnotizing audiences while establishing tonality to come. In this bubble, FX's new take on What We Do In The Shadows transplants the same approach, expressionism, and aesthetic of Waititi and Clement's effortlessly entertaining "vampire world-shattering documentary" from New Zealand to Staten Island.

"Documentary" in quotations because, you know, *if* it were real (which Waititi and Clement both insisted).

Following the structure of a Real World docuseries, four vampires permit camera operators to record their daily lives and blow the lid of Dracula-heavy myths. Nandor (Kayvan Novak) "The Relentless" still retains mannerisms from his life as an Ottoman Empire soldier, "Familiar" Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) does many an evil bidding on behalf of Nandor, Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Laszlo (Matt Berry) are immortal gothic lovers, plus there's Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), an avoided "Energy Vampire" (drains your lifeforce through boring conversation). Together, their mission is to conquer America and usher in vampire rule – which isn't going *super* well. As Laszlo remarks, the US is big! They'll get around to the whole "world domination" thing eventually.

Those who've rewatched What We Do In The Shadows countless times since its 2014 debut will feel comfortably at home with the show's new bloodsucking crew. Nandor first to arise – with the help of hopeful vampire Guillermo as his butler assistant of ten years – as he makes a "grand entrance" by levitating from an opened coffin. Goofishly dangling wire work allows characters to "fly" freely (humorous effect intended), and soft-spoken side conversations by scene subjects mask secrets the vampires think won't be caught by microphones. Not an ounce of quirkiness or fangs-out mundanity or "mumblecore" monster play is lost in feature-to-television translation. What We Do In The Shadows lovers rejoice, you're in safe hands.

The pilot's narrative is forced to cram building blocks, first meetings and baited lines into a 30-ish minute length, which does feel a tad overwhelming – but still deadly hilarious. Nandor's house meeting discusses specific "hygiene" objections – leaving half-drunk corpses to fester – while Laszlo and Nadja expose their lustier charms as more passionate chasers of pleasure. There's a love triangle teased with a future character that inspires delicious temptation, especially because Nadja's also "seeing" (aka stalking) a human named Jeff. Sexual gratification and bloodlust define Nadja and Laszlo's interactions while the innocent caretaker relationship between Guillermo and Nandor hits fish-out-of-water notes as a mortal fulfills vampire duties (summoning virgin meals, cleaning remains, mowing the lawn).

Colin? He's sharpening pencils somewhere, searing those beady red eyes. And Proksch is so masterful in evoking humor from boredom.

What We Do in the Shadows TV Show Review

In the short time spent with Staten Island's undead neighbors, actors define their personas enough. Nandor chucks ancient coins at supermarket clerks and dons his centuries-old battle armor during interviews, attempting an alpha push. Laszlo pines over the love of his life, strolling "inconspicuously" through parks while dishing out oh-so-very Matt Berry quips that slay over and over – but never overshadowing Nadja. Demetriou sneakily enjoys her own late-night walk with Jeff that showcases how "batty" and commanding a comedian Nadja will remain, convinced her hunky crush is the reincarnation of an old flame. Proksch's case-of-the-Mondays office leech is more a side character but fits perfectly as the avoided outcast no one wants to engage. Literally chatting you to death, unable to escape his conversations about dull weekend plans.

As the episode ends, What We Do In The Shadows establishes wacky genre proclivity to follow. Will Guillermo finally become a vampire after serving Nandor so faithfully (lap-dog dedication)? Can the primal attraction between Laszlo and Nadja survive outside forces? Will the vampires be able to overcome technological advances like e-signature package signing since screens cannot recognize their touch? I mean, we're gifted Matt Berry playing a very Matt-Berry-esque vampire. That, alone, is worth the price of admissions (and his delivery of the word "Fuck," which is surprisingly uttered fiveish times in this episode alone).

What We Do In The Shadows honors and recreates Waititi and Clement's original mockumentary magic, lifted and adapted as a singular spinoff. New house, new characters, same sense of humorous vampiric skewering (Twilight references, gory feeding times, Guillermo's excitable fandom obsession, lavish costumes/effects/production design). Given time to breathe, and evolve, there's every bit of hope this FX series will attain the same praise and worship still alive for Waititi and Clement's existing film. Hence why incorporating original creators should be a *must* when adapting, spinning-off, or double-dipping after a first successful creative phenomenon – especially when those geniuses are Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement.