When a foreign indie film or television series becomes a worldwide darling, more often than not it gets the Americanized treatment. When the property makes the switch it often loses the quintessential aspects that audiences loved in the first place. Luckily, FX's What We Do in the Shadows reboot continues in its predecessor's footsteps, delivering much of the same oddball weirdness audiences came to expect.
The FX series succeeds due in part to its behind the scenes team, recruiting both Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi. But as with any reboot, there are pros and cons to nearly every aspect. Here are 5 reasons FX' s What We Do In The Shadows is better than Taika Waititi's original film, and 5 ways it doesn't even come close.
10 Better - The TV Format
What We Do In The Shadows is full of instantly likable characters that could entertain audiences in any number of situations. The film presented this clearly. That being said, there is only so much that can be covered in 90 minutes. Film's smaller scope simply limits the ability to tell stories in comparison to television.
The television format fits this premise better than a film ever could. With the expanded runtime that comes with a full series, writers can craft so many more situations and character beats which would only be sidelined in a feature film. The side story with Nadja and Jenna would have been cut if this was a film reboot, and it was some of the strongest and funniest character moments so far in the series. Because of the transfer to television, audiences are treated to even more laughs and more nuanced storytelling.
9 Worse - It Lacks The Indie Charm
Although the new TV format might offer more time with these new characters, there is a bit of that indie charm missing that made the original film so loveable. What We Do in the Shadows, the film, felt like a homemade project through and through. Granted, much of that had to do with its mockumentary style, which is far more common in TV than it is in movies. At the same time though, there was a sense of comradery and collaboration that is somewhat lacking in the new series.
For those familiar, Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi have been filmmaking and comedic partners for many years. The two have an electric chemistry that bleeds through (no pun intended) both on and off the screen. Their energy and personal touch on the original film is its greatest strength. Although both have been heavily involved in the series, the film has a rebellious anti-establishment personality that was lost the minute a major network like FX took over.
8 Better - More Gender Diversity
There is no denying that the original What We Do in the Shadows was a bit of a boys club. Vampire or werewolf, both sides of this supernatural spectrum lacked in female representation. Sure there was Jackie the familiar and Vladislav's former lover The Beast, but neither had top billing in the feature.
In FX's series, there is now a lady vampire front and center. Instead of focusing on a trio of male bloodsuckers, the dynamic switched to two men and a woman. Nadja, played hilariously by Natasia Demetriou, brings different motivations and dynamics to this undead trio as compared to the original movie. This choice not only allows for a more diverse cast but enabled the series to stand on its own as well.
7 Worse - The Main Trio
There is no denying that FX's reboot gathered some of the best comedic talents around. All three of this new trio bring fresh, and hilarious takes to their vampire counterparts and certainly stand on their own in comparison to the original. Unfortunately, at this point in the series, this trio's chemistry is nowhere near as strong as the original's.
Part of this is due to the real-life relationships between the original cast. That was a filmmaking and acting partnership between best friends and longstanding professional relationships. Much of this group has not worked together in the past, and it's not something easily replicated. Also, the actual character dynamics are not laid out for success. Pairing off two of the characters in a romantic relationship instantly isolates the other, building an emotional barrier among this new trifecta.
6 Better - The Supporting Cast
One thing this series has in loads is an incredible supporting cast. So much of the original film focused on the iconic comedic chops of its main cast with a few highlighted moments with supporting characters. The series, on the other hand, has so much more playing room to explore side characters. More often than not, the supporting players seem to have more fun than the actual leads do.
Mark Proksch, who plays the energy vampire Colin Robinson, is an excellent addition. Possibly his best performance to date, Proksch has often been sidelined to minimal supporting parts. Since his appearance on The Office, a featured role such as this has been a long time coming. Harvey Guillén, who plays Nandor's familiar Guillermo, is another stand-out. A relevantly unknown performer, he is slowly becoming the shining star of the show. Serving as a semi-audience surrogate, his reactions earn the biggest laughs thus far.
5 Worse - Not As Stylistically Innovative
Mockumentaries, specifically great ones, are few and far between as far as film is concerned. There are standouts, from This is Spinal Tap to Popstar, but great ones are rarities. What We Do in the Shadows was so unique for its blend of the mockumentary style with horror and comedy. There was no other film like it. Television is a different story.
So many TV comedies have adapted the mockumentary style that it has become the status quo. The Office, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and many, many more have used this style. Mockumentary is anything but innovative anymore, and although it doesn't necessarily hurt this series, it doesn't help it stand on its own either.
4 Better - Expansion of the World
When turning a film into a television series, far more storytelling devices and world building opportunities arise. The What We Do in the Shadows series is no exception. The original film barely touched upon the greater dynamics of this underground vampire society, let alone the other supernatural beings who existed among them.
As stated before, the series introduced Collin Robinson, the energy vampire. This concept was never present in the original film and now offers a whole new set of narrative and comedy roads to explore. The same can be said for the hierarchy with the Baron Afanas. There is a worldwide community of Vampires bent on world domination. That was never touched upon in the original film whatsoever. There are so many more avenues to be explored through a long-form comedic series.
3 Worse - The Visual Effects
Possibly a point of contention, but the series' visual effects seem fairly standard if not bland. Much of the charm of the original film was the restrictions of a low budget. Whether its the shaky cam werewolf attack or the insanity of Vladislav's feline form, the original film pulled off as much as they could with little financial backing. In the series, the visual effects are far less hidden. The budget seems to have been increased from the film, but not enough to earn their new spotlight. The new CGI bat transformations are far less believable than they hope, and the werewolf transformation is just ridiculous. That being said, the show's job is less to make audiences believe in vampires, and more to get them to laugh at their mishaps. They deserve a bit of a pass for this one.
2 Better - Character Pairings
Where the first film was more of an ensemble piece which relied on interactions as a group, the series chooses instead to pair off characters for individual A and B stories. This offers a better glimpse into these characters as individuals than the original film allowed. The pairing of Nandor and Guillermo is undoubtedly a favorite, as their power imbalance offers some incredibly funny beats. Having Nadja and Laszlo paired off as a couple also provides a great exploration into relationship dynamics for romantic couples (particularly undead ones). Although the fraternal dynamic might be missing from the group, it is nice to have so many other pairs and stories to be invested in.
1 Worse - The Werewolves
The most significant discretion the series has made thus far has been its version of werewolves. In the original film, the werewolves almost stole the show. Perhaps the most quotable line from the entire movie was "Werewolves not Swearwolves". Their whole dynamic and relationship with the vampires was instantly iconic. Their series counterparts are a substantial step-down. They are nowhere near as funny or memorable as the original pack, choosing to riff off pop culture references alone. The series definitely has a long way to go to improve on them, but so far they have been the biggest disappointment.