"What We Do In the Shadows" is absolutely going to be remembered as one of the most underrated films ever - let alone of the best comedies in recent years. The small, low-budget comedic mockumentary focused on the surprisingly mundane lives of a group of vampires living in Wellington, New Zealand, and the kind of sad and pathetically normal way they conducted their lives. It was weirdly sweet, amazingly deadpan, completely original, and honestly made me laugh more than anything else I can think of in the past few years - and there was only one negative I could hold against it:
See, another wonderful aspect of "What We Do In the Shadows" is the little ways it handles world-building. We keep getting hints of this slightly skewed version of our world that are different, unexpected, but totally make sense. The perfect example of this is the film's take on werewolves - who, like in many other pieces of monster fiction, are at odds with the vampires, but act more like a group of divorced dads who all went through anger management training, all while trying to deal with their mildly dog-like tendencies and keep each other in check ("We're werewolves, not swearwolves."). The werewolves are an important plot point, but don't take up much actual screentime in the film - but (particularly thanks to the performance by Rhys Darby as the head werewolf) the small glimpse we get into the world of the werewolves feels so complete and filled with layers, it's a bummer we don't get to spend much time with them.
There are countless tiny things in WWDITS like this - little hints that I'd love to see more of and explored more completely. Thankfully, a spinoff "We're Wolves" (like...werewolves, get it???) has been in the works for a while and is beginning to look like it might be soon becoming a reality. But even more interesting, a new show taking place in the WWDITS universe appears to be RIGHT ABOUT TO PREMIERE: Wellington Paranormal.
I had never even CONSIDERED the idea of following the poor police officers who have to maintain law and order in this town filled with weird, sad versions of paranormal, horror monsters. The cops (O'Leary and Minogue) do make an appearance in WWDITS - and the way they fit in works perfectly. Clearly everything is amiss in this town and they can tell SOMETHING'S wrong, but they can never quite wrap their heads around the reality of the situation and mostly just shrug all the strangeness off in favor of focusing on silly little mundane things. It's a great scene:
What it comes down to is this: WWDITS not only creates a very funny film filled with very funny characters and situations, but it created a very funny and interesting WORLD - one that hints at a much, much larger universe of characters and situations that all naturally flow from this single entity. In other words - this could be the comedy world's equivalent to the MCU.
Ever since the MCU took off, other companies have been SO THIRSTY for their OWN connected universes - most of which have failed spectacularly. Right when Paramount announced they were intending to build out the Michael Bay Transformers film series into a more varied universe of films and characters, the first movie to kick off that phase (Transformers: The Last Knight) flopped. Everyone knows the sad state of the DC Cinematic Universe, whose Avengers equivalent - Justice League - went on to be the lowest grossing film released by the DCU yet.
And, notably, the immediate failure of Universal's Dark Universe - their attempt to bring together all of their various horror properties into an action-packed cinematic universe, starting with Tom Cruise in The Mummy. The biggest mistake Universal made was that they were trying to force an idea into existence with zero passion behind it - they saw the MCU, and figured an action-y version of their horror icons starring big celebrity names would lead to big bucks. They even went so far as to announce an entire slate of films BEFORE the first one even premiered! They even took a GROUP PHOTO!
THIS JUST IN: Universal calling their monster-verse DARK UNIVERSE. Confirm Depp as Invisible Man & Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's monster pic.twitter.com/9kA3OQKOcE-- ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) May 22, 2017
And then, of course, The Mummy hugely underperformed and the entire notion of the "Dark Universe" went with it. But - what if the Dark Universe could live on? What if there was a future for all of the horror icons in a connected universe....just one that was very funny, very dry, and mostly took place in New Zealand? Because THAT'S what I believe is happening now - or, at least, what I hope happens.
Maybe the problem all of these other studios have had in launching their own connected universes is that they tried to hue too closely to the Marvel model, and people ALREADY HAVE MARVEL. Give the people something different - more low-key, smaller scale, and with a bit of a different twist. I want a whole series of films and TV shows following the vampires, the werewolves, the police, vampire hunters, and anything else Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement can come up with. There will soon be three entries in the 'universe', between WWDITS, We're Wolves, and Wellington Paranormal - and that's ALREADY miles ahead of the Dark Universe.
If we were ever going to get a comedy connected universe, this would be it.
It should be noted that an American reboot of WWDITS was recently picked up to series by FX, except taking place in NYC and with none of the original actors reprising their roles.