What We Do in the Shadows has to be as close to perfection as comedy/horror films ever have. It’s a film with depth, heart and a metric tonne of belly laughs. And it has a point – yes, it’s some comedians doing dodgy Bela Lugosi accents, but has a point. A lot of ‘vampire protagonist’ stories deal with the subject of loss, but Shadows manages to break your heart with loss and still deliver a happy ending.
Wellington Paranormal is not quite as perfect. It retains the brilliant deadpan humour of Shadows, but lacks the depth or pathos. The dumb cop jokes get a little repetitive, and some of the episodes aren’t well paced. But you know what? None of that matters, because it is completely hilarious.
It’s an old fashioned show in many respects, with none of the ongoing arcs that you’d expect in either a contemporary monster-of-the-week show or a sitcom. But it works. Incompetent cops fight second-rate monsters could be terrible, but the low-key deadpan makes it work.
The story follows Officers Minogue and O’Leary, the Wellington coppers from Shadows. The pair unwittingly arrest a demon-possessed girl. Their senior officer Sgt Maaka secretly runs the Paranormal division of the New Zealand police from a secret office behind a set of shelves. It’s not clear if anyone other than Maaka knows about this or if he made it all up himself, but as it happens Wellington is being beset with supernatural threats. It’s up to Minogue and O’Leary to phlegmatically chase down these threats with varying degrees of success.
The formula probably wouldn’t work with a long-running series, but it gets us through six episodes nicely. The use of familiar monster-of-the-week tropes is interesting. So it doesn’t matter that the main detectives seldom get to explain what’s going on. We know—probably better than they do. After Supernatural, The X-Files, and Kolchak, we know how all these stories are supposed to go. In fact, the running gag where the monster gets away in the end seems like a callback to reporter Carl Kolchak, who never managed to get his story in. But the protagonists prefer to compare themselves to the X-Files. “She’s like Scully in that she has the analytical, logical mind, and I’m like Mulder because I’m a man with brown hair.”
But worrying about structure is really kind of a mistake here. Wellington Paranormal is the sort of comedy which is all about the jokes, with the plot pretty much just working as a means of generating deadpan gags.
Watch it. It’s fun.