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What We Do in the Shadows

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
What We Do in the Shadows TV Poster Image
Great dark humor and horror in worthy movie follow-up.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

A comedy about vampires is a strange place to draw positive messages, but themes of tolerance and respect for differing points of view do occasionally peek through. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters have some ethnic and gender diversity, more than the movie's vampires, anyway. Each character has a distinct personality that much of the show's humor arises from, and each is portrayed sympathetically (considering that the vampires are brutal killers). 

Violence

This comedy is built around vampires, so expect bloody deaths, always played for laughs. Two vampires pull a man up into the trees, talk about how "delicious" he is; deluge of blood drops onto woman who was walking through park with him. Vampires gather for "blood feast," where nervous would-be victims are herded into dark chamber and one is bitten by a vampire; we see vampire leaning forward and then pulling back with bloody face. Guillermo and vampires deal with leftover dead bodies, wrapping them in material, lugging them outside. Vampires themselves may look human, or may have special-effects makeup to look something like pale, leathery bats. 

Sex

References to sex are jokey: "There's only one part of my anatomy that was affected by leprosy," says Laszlo. Laszlo and Nadja are in relationship, talk about having sex with each other and with other people; they talk about each having had an "intense sexual affair" with a male vampire they both know ("very acrobatic," says Laszlo). Vampires often hope for blood of virgins. 

Language

Language and cursing includes "f---ing," "s--t," "damn," "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that What We Do in the Shadows is a comedy based on the 2014 film of the same name. The levels of sex, language, and violence are about the same as in the original film, and the tone and humor is similar too. Expect bloody deaths, like when two vampires pull a man into a tree to suck his blood and blood rains down on his companion, or when a vampire bites the neck of a man, who slumps to the ground, dead. There are also dead bodies being comically disposed of. Vampires may have special-effects makeup that makes them appear horrifying, or they may appear human. There are jokes about sex, but no nudity or intense kissing; there are also lots of references to virgins and their blood. Language is infrequent but mature: "f---ing," "s--t," "damn," "hell." Characters are somewhat diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender, and there are messages about tolerance and respect to be gleaned from the way they work out their differences at their house. 

 

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What's the story?

Based on the movie of the same name, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS purports to be a vérité documentary about four vampire roommates: self-appointed house leader "Nandor the Relentless" (Kayvan Novak), roguish fop Laszlo (Matt Berry), lusty take-no-prisoners Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Colin (Mark Proksch), an "energy" vampire whose super power is driving everyone around him insane. They're making a go of their household, if not exactly "living" together. But when head vampire Baron Afanas (Doug Jones) pays them a visit, they're reminded that they moved to New York with the goal to foment vampire domination of the New World. It's taken more than 200 years, but they're finally ready to get started.

Is it any good?

Nailing the same absurdity-tinged-with-horror tone as the movie that preceded it, this endlessly quotable mockumentary proves that the "vampire roommate" premise still has plenty of bite. Genius co-creators Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement made smart moves by transferring the action in What We Do in the Shadows to Staten Island, New York ("That's where the boat dropped us off," explains Nadja), and shaking up the vampire mix. Fans of the film may have expected to see retreads on the characters they remember from the original, and Nandor and Laszlo could creditably pass for the film's Vladislav and Deacon. But Nadja injects a note of wanton sexuality into the proceedings -- the film's vampires mostly struck out, lovewise -- and Colin's oatmeal-bland relentless drone gives the undead vampires a (really boring) common enemy to bond over. 

The plight of Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) proves to be a rich source of gags as well. Ten years in the service of Nandor, he expects to be made a vampire any day now. Meanwhile, he dutifully takes Nandor shopping, lights candles to ready the house for Nandor's nightly wakeup call ("Very scary, Master," he says approvingly as Nandor rises from his casket), and lugs out dead bodies. "Being a vampire's familiar is like being a friend ... who's also a slave," he admits. Meanwhile, Nandor and company barely notice his service, content instead to argue over how to mark victims so that the roomies will know who belongs to whom ("Use Sharpie, name of month, date, year," advises Nadja), or where they should hold their next Blood Feast. Even if you've never had a house chore wheel or argued over who left the most dishes, watching this quartet of flatmates work out their daily differences is bloody delightful. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about What We Do in the Shadowsviolence. Does the blood and horror shock you? Make you laugh? What's the difference between violence intended for humor and the more realistic kind? Does the comedy make the horror less or more scary? 

  • How does the "fake documentary" format contribute to -- or detract from -- this story? Have you seen this type of setup before? Does it ever get old? 

  • Satire is use of irony, exaggeration, and humor to ridicule people's shortcomings; parody is an exaggerated imitation of the style of a genre or artistic work. Is the humor in What We Do in the Shadows closer to satire or to parody? Is it a blend of both? 

TV details

For kids who love spooky comedy

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