After watching a few episodes of What We Do In The Shadows (Sunday, 9.45pm, BBC2) you might well find yourself intoning, in a vaguely Middle Eastern accent, “Not you, Guillermo! Only vampires!” Created by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi as a spin-off from their 2014 film of the same name, this blackest of comedies features a household unruly as it is undead, and struggling to come terms with the 21st century. Led by the saturnine Nandor (“I was very ferocious soldier in Ottoman Empire”), they landed in the New World 200 years ago with the intention of bringing all North America under pitiless vampire rule. That they still live on Staten Island is an indication of their success.
The hapless Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) is a vampire’s acolyte whose tasks include disposing of blood-drained bodies, providing virgins and boarding up windows against the sunlight. Nandor, nicknamed The Relentless — “because I never relent . . . I’m pillaging everyone, you included” — has invited a TV crew to document their nightly activities. Deliciously played by Kayvan Novak (of Fonejacker fame), Nandor is actually a softy, much given to anxious, fang-baring glances to camera as he attempts to keep his small family in order.
They comprise pompous Laszlo (the sublimely funny Matt Berry), who enjoys playing the harpsichord and crafting erotic topiary, and his bored vampire wife Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), eternally seeking her true love Gregor, whom she may have rediscovered in the form of a local nightwatchman. Eeriest of all is Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), the only “daywalker”, an energy vampire who works in an office and drains everyone around, including other vampires, with his malevolently boring chatter.
The vampire residence is flung into disorder by the news that the ancient Baron Afanas is planning to visit from Europe to see how the whole conquering North America thing is going on. But where to house his coffin, when the cellar is the terrifying Colin Robinson’s domain, and the attic houses the Stairmaster? It’s time for a visit to the dollar store for props, including face glitter for that “Twilight” effect, and “Creepy paper! Creepy paper!” “It’s crepe paper, Master.”
Modern life tasks, such as signing for the Baron’s consignment at the docks when faced with a tablet rather than parchment, may prove challenging but the vampires have some fabulous compensatory skills: crawling up walls, mind control and flying in the form of a “Bat!”, as Laszlo bellows each time. Originating on the FX channel, the programme features splendid effects. With all the riches of the vampire myth in literature, folklore, art and cinema to plunder, What We Do In The Shadows is visually arresting, smart and witty. Fangs just got a whole lot better.
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