What We Do in the Shadows Season 4 Review

TV

What We Do in the Shadows gets a major infusion in season 4. Baby Colin (Mark Proksch, et al.), or “the thing which crawled out of the dead Colin Robinson’s chest cavity,” is a fount of fresh blood. He is a new take on an old character, who also energizes the cast around him, for now. Laszlo (Matt Berry), who passed on a chance to revisit the world to raise the budding energy vampire, is also the same hedonistic scatterbrain who lets the child explore dark gas leaks with lit candles. Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) almost learns to discern the baby from a raccoon. Nandor (Kayvan Novak), well, really doesn’t care, as long as Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) cleans up after all the messes.

This is undeath as usual on Staten Island.

In the season 3 finale, the main cast was thrown asunder to the world to embark on adventures beyond the vampire house which binds them. Laszlo rerouted Guillermo’s travel plans to accompany Nadja, leaving Nandor on a train platform with an extra ticket and too much baggage. The reunion is set up perfectly, moving from Doll-Nadja’s introduction to Nandor’s surprisingly boisterous entrance in one sweeping encapsulation of the group dynamic. We barely miss the temporarily-lost-in-transit Guillermo. But it’s the ever-horny, impatiently impetuous Laszlo who owns the scene. He’s got one thing on his mind, and Matt Berry thrusts this into every physical motion he makes. Even his eyebrows ooze arousal, the promise of more arousal, and the increasingly urgent question of why it hasn’t graduated beyond arousal.

Nandor is surprisingly accommodating, and Kayvan Novak is extremely generous. So many of his best laugh lines come passively, in muted reactions and asides. All of the cast know how to work the omnipresent camera filming them, but Novak alternately winks his invitations, and muffles his conspiratorially tactful exits. He is still on the lookout for a new bride, but is now also considering undeading old ones. It also looks like Novak is expanding his talent for mimicry this season. He did spot-on impressions of the cast while trying to woo the woman he loved in season 3’s “The Cloak of Duplication.” The opener sees Nandor rock a Wisconsin drawl with perfectly astute comic imperfection.

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Nadja has a new power, and it may prove to be far more effective than vampire hypnosis. Natasia Demetriou has an almost operatically trained range of funny voices, but she shatters the glass ceiling this season. Nadja’s short term in the International Vampiric Council is disappointing, given the possibilities offered in international affairs she could have enjoyed. Nadja is the most Twilight-like, hormonally-raging, eternal teenager of the undead trio, and it fuels her every decision. Except, sadly, on the council. Reminiscences of her screwing her way through the European vampire community might have been fun, but may also have risked falling into cliché. Nadja saves that for her plan to open the hottest vampire nightclub in the Tri-State Area. This only makes us root for her more. It is going to be a beautiful disaster, we hope, as it becomes one of the constants in season.

Guillermo seems to have regressed. Harvey Guillén brings him on strong, but ultimately, Nadja is right, it’s just one complaint after another. It’s a relief the silent treatment bit can’t work because it would have been tedious, and is funnier as a wasted effort. But it is a shame the first chance Guillermo gets to live up to the good Van Helsing name, he only stoops to conquer. The ongoing sexual tension between him and the Guide (Kristen Schaal) is a comedic counterpoint to the will-they-won’t-they-style tensions of Mulder and Scully on The X-Files, and currently on Paramount+’s Evil. What We Do in the Shadows, however, turns it into a delicious catch-22.

The creature that clawed its way out of the chest cavity of the deceased Colin Robinson must be a direct descendant of Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. The child actors were either fortuitously chosen, or Proksch is a contortionist, because the Pugsly Adams-on-meth/Dennis the Menace-on-crack antics have his harrowing DNA. Also known as Baby Colin, he is a sight gag for sore eyes, bleary from the constant attention it takes to raise a non-energy-sucking vampire into something more interesting. 

The thing which crawled out of Colin Robinson’s chest cavity is a fast learner. While still a toddler, he bests the great swordsman Laszlo in a duel. This may not seem like much of an achievement. He was evenly matched by Mark Hamill’s Jim the Vampire with a broken pool cue, and Doll-Nadja disarmed him completely after just a few lessons.. We asked whether anyone could beat him, or did they just have to be shorter than him.

“No, just those three people,” Matt Berry told Den of Geek at the What We Do in the Shadows media junket. “But let me say, Baby Colin is an incredible swordsman.”

Baby Colin becomes increasingly fascinating until he sucks all the air out of the room. It’s exhaustingly hysterical waiting for him to stumble into something far more dangerous at any juncture. His popup horseplay is the comic equivalent of jump scares in horror films.

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The creative team at What We Do in the Shadows continues to perfect its horror-to-comedy transitions. Sequences begin with the same ominous atmosphere as the most suspenseful scenes of the most terrifying films, but pay off with a laugh rather than a scream, occasionally both or some combination. This works whether we are on the lookout for a calculating genie, a vengeful reanimated ex-wife, or Baby Colin. There may be tiny shudders along the way to the comic twist, but ultimately, they have been part of the thread which knits together the punchline.

The jokes are strung together so well they feed off each other while light years away. A running gag about sounds in the walls leads to the destruction of most of the infrastructure of the Staten Island mansion. It turns out to be a completely different problem which is coincidentally festering. The cumulative effect is like throwing things at a television to change the channel because you’re too lazy to look for the remote control, even as whatever you’ve been sitting on has now cracked, and will no longer hold batteries. Every single solution is the cause of a problem, and every character is a master of deconstruction.

The sets are all precariously perfect for thrills and spills. The most terrifying location in the series is the vampire’s safe place. It grows more perilous with every step of every supernatural guest. The Staten Island mansion is as much of a minefield of mayhem as the housemates’ relationships, with each other or the outside worlds. The special effects continue to be split between frightfully head-scratching spectacles and fearsome B-movie absurdity.

What We Do in the Shadows has hosted many stellar guest stars in past seasons, including Mark Hamill and Wesley Snipes. Season 4 will continue the traditions, including some “true cameos,” executive producer/writer Stefani Robinson said at the WWDITS panel. This will include Fred Armisen, as a character in a “Eugene Landy-to-Brian Wilson sort of relationship,” executive producer/writer Paul Simms added. 

The series has been picked up for two more seasons. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and M*A*S*H before it, What We Do in the Shadows has its roots in a feature film. The 2014 New Zealand mockumentary directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi was a groundbreaking mix of horror, comedy, and reality show spoof. It is much beloved by its fans. The series is popular, but it is hard to gauge whether it will surpass the original film. “All I can do it is by math,” Simms told us. “I would only just go mathematically and say the movie was probably an hour and 20 minutes long, after we had done the first four episodes, I think.”

What We Do in the Shadows has been growing into a modern comedy classic, and season 4 looks to be the most haphazardly humorous of the run. Most comedy shows jump the shark when a new hungry mouth is imposed on the cast chemistry. Here, it causes a farcical feeding frenzy.

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What We Do in the Shadows season 4 premieres Tuesday, July 12 at 10 p.m. on FX and streams the next day on Hulu.

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