What We Do in the Shadows First Reviews: Hilarious Series Lives Up to Film

The upcoming series based on the 2015 film has a different cast and is set in Staten Island instead of New Zealand — how does it hold up?

by and | March 11, 2019 | Comments

What We Do in the Shadows, the hilarious 2015 mockumentary film about vampire roommates that was co-written by, co-directed by, and co-starred Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, charmed critics (if not giant theater-going audiences) and is Certified Fresh with 96% on 192 reviews. Now that the film is available for streaming and has secured its cult status, Clement and Waititi have applied its special sauce to a new FX series, starring new actors and set on New York’s Staten Island.

The series premiered at the SXSW film festival in Austin on Friday, which saw the release of giddy reviews praising the show, which stars Kayvan Novak (Four Lions), Natasia Demetriou (Stath Lets Flats), Matt Berry (Toast of London), and Mark Proksch (Better Call Saul) as vampires Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo, and Colin Robinson, respectively, and Harvey Guillén (The Magicians) as their human servant Guillermo.

What are the critics saying? Here’s are the first impressions of FX show What We Do in the Shadows:

How does it compare to the film?

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.
Matt Donato, Slashfilm

It’s, well, more of the same, but just as deliciously delightful, absurd and wry in is amusing observations of banal vampire co-habitation, rituals and customs… it reveals the basic concept as a rich vein that could be sucked on for years.
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Functionally, the show and the film are different beasts, and you feel it in both the storytelling and the comedy.
Haleigh Foutch, Collider

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS season 1 keyart (FX)

(Photo by FX)

Does the adaptation to TV work?

The adaptation is just the right amount of weird paired with just the right amount of sweet paired with just the right amount of dark.
Merrill Barr, Forbes

What We Do in the Shadows should have always been a series. Simply put, there’s just so much you can do with this premise, and the first four episodes alone proves as much… Absolutely nothing has been lost in translation.
Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound

Sometimes it feels like certain details are rushed in favor of a silly joke, but a) the silly jokes are so good, and b) the intricate craftsmanship evident in the costumes, sets, and over mise en scéne, not to mention the rich world-building and endearing characters, more than make up for a few early bumps.
Ben Travers, IndieWire

Does the humor hold up?

It’s this grandly goofy collision of the supernatural and the mundane that makes Shadows such a giddy joy to watch — and maybe the funniest new show of the year so far.
Dave Nemetz, TV Line

This show’s laughs are closer to chuckles than guffaws.
– Daniel D’Addario, Variety

What We Do in the Shadows mines plenty of effective humor from the vampires’ discomfort with the human world, but much like the movie, the series really shines in the banter between the cast, and the surreal nature of their various supernatural abilities.
– Laura Prudom, IGN Movies

Will we miss Clement and Waititi on screen?

Waititi and Clement stay off camera this time around, but still divide directorial and executive producing duties on the FX series, with Clement also writing a number of episodes alongside executive producer Paul Simms.
Laura Prudom, IGN Movies

One of the more troubling notions going into this series was whether or not the cast would be able to match the chemistry of the 2014 film… Rest assured, it’s one that paid off as this ensemble is, dare we say, even stronger?
– Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound

How’s the acting?

The cast is bursting with gems, too. I must confess I’ve never seen Novak, Guillén, or Demetriou in anything before, but they’re all superb, nailing the show’s bone-dry comedic tone right away.
– Dave Nemetz, TV Line

Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetrious, and Matt Berry are witty, engaging company as three eternal beings whose vanities run up against the banal reality of trying to find fresh blood.
– Daniel D’Addario, Variety

Waititi’s direction on the pilot, paired with Clement’s well-paced script, certainly plays to the actors’ strengths.
– Laura Prudom, IGN Movies

All of these cast members effectively sell these bizarre characters, but they also gel together as a group, which is a pretty crucial aspect of this series.
Daniel Kurland, Bloody Disgusting

Where does it fall in the TV mockumentary canon?

The show’s mockumentary format feels, for the first time in a while, like something new.
Daniel D’Addario, Variety

While not every joke lands, What We Do in the Shadows is a confident, charming, and creative twist on a well-worn genre.
– Laura Prudom, IGN Movies

Despite the played-out documentary film angle, it all manages to work and What We Do in the Shadows becomes addictively, ridiculously funny — part droll look at everyday vamp-ness and part inspired family sitcom.
– Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

It’s easy to say that this feels like a supernatural take on The Office, but it’s a lot more akin to a horror-fueled version of The Real World due to how these different vampires are all housed up together.
– Daniel Kurland, Bloody Disgusting

What We Do in the Shadows has all the right pieces to become another mockumentary great.
– Haleigh Foutch, Collider

Are there literal references to The Office?

Preying on co-workers in temp offices by day, Colin (Mark Proksch) is a humorous riff on cubical culture and that annoying, chatty guy at your day job who just won’t shut up about the most boring shit on earth.
– Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Even when they tackle more obvious tropes — such as the fluorescent purgatory of the standard American office space, which has been beaten to death by now — Waititi and Clement are able to find new life.
– Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound

The understated Mark Proksch represents the day walking energy vampire as Colin Robinson. At one point in the series he comes across his ultimate nemesis, an emotional vampire sucking the happiness and life out of his co-workers and leaving the office as dry as the cubicles for psionic sustenance.
– Tony Sokol, Den of Geek

Final verdict?

Great movie, even better show, if only for the time you invested in that world and with those characters and with their stakes.
– Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound

This series won’t be for everybody, but there’s nothing else quite like it, adding a freshness to the comedy selection on TV… FX has seemingly unearthed another gem.
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

There’s a lot to admire in the opening episodes, and the potential within each only drives more excitement for the next.
Ben Travers, IndieWire

Vampires never get old and What We Do in the Shadows never gets tired of plumbing the mythology for quirky twists on old tropes.
Tony Sokol, Den of Geek

What We Do in the Shadows premieres Wednesday, March 27 on FX.

Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: Delightfully absurd and ridiculously fun, What We Do in the Shadows expands on the film's vampiric lore and finds fresh perspective in its charming, off-kilter cast to create a mockumentary series worth sinking your teeth into.

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