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'What We Do in the Shadows' at SXSW: TV adaptation lives up to the film

Natalie Mokry, special to the American-Statesman

In our current reboot and spin-off culture, questioning the need for a TV remake of a beloved film from 5 years ago is legitimate. Spin-offs sometimes fail to capture the charm and appeal of their predecessors. "What We Do in the Shadows," however, is no such failure. Fans of the original movie will be more than excited to relive this universe through FX's new series.

The pilot, which screened at South by Southwest Film Festival on Friday, follows four vampires in a mockumentary-style depiction of their day-to-day lives, which of course takes place at night. Fans of the original will already be familiar with the style of humor that "What We Do in the Shadows" brings, since this TV adaptation does not stray from what made the 2014 film so odd and enjoyable. If anything, it further embraces the strangeness of its concept without feeling like a retread. The characters this time around are completely new and live in Staten Island. Although there is a somewhat similar group dynamic, the TV gang are not carbon copies of Vladislav, Viago, Deacon and all the rest. And they are just as fun to hang out with.

There's Nandor (Kayvan Novak), who's the self-proclaimed leader of the group. Within the household, there's also Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Laszlo (Matt Berry), an immortal couple who thrive on blood, excitement and sexual prowess. They are centuries old, and their lack of understanding about the modern world drives the comedy in their interactions with members of the outside world. Colin (Mark Proksch) is another vampire who lives in the house, but he's not a Dracula or Nosferatu parody. I won't spoil the joke of his particular vampire breed, but it's a creative, smart twist.

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Nandor also has an apprentice named Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), a guy who just wants to be a vampire. Each day he gets rid of the bloodless bodies the vampires fed on and otherwise does Nandor's bidding. This is all with the hope that he will achieve his dream of becoming a vampire. It's an imbalanced relationship, since Nandor doesn't really appreciate or value Guillermo's devotion and seemingly has no plans to make him a vampire. Much like Stu in the film, Guillermo brings the human touch to this vampire circle. Guillermo as a companion brings a charming and subtle humor to the show but also wears his heart on his sleeve, making it so that you can't help but root for him, even if his aspirations are a little questionable.

The choice to start fresh with a new setting and a new cast of vampires feels like the best way to kick off the series, welcoming old fans but also appealing to newcomers who may have never seen the cult-classic film. The performances are wonderfully theatrical and carry enough charisma to ignite an entire series. And while Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement do not star in this adaptation, their contributions as producers on the show are unmistakable in the pilot episode.

"What We Do in the Shadows" is follows directly in the footsteps of its predecessor in a fun, fresh way. A boldly hilarious addition to an ever-expanding TV landscape, both newcomers and those familiar with the world will be happy to visit its spooky charm on the small screen. "What We Do in the Shadows" premieres March 27 on FX.

» MORE SXSW: Get complete coverage of the fest