One of the best VHSes I ever found at a thrift store was an instructional tape called Surfing For Seniors, one of a wave of videos on how to use the internet produced in the early ‘90s. It wasn’t as manic as the one for moms, or as mortifying as the one for kids. It was very dry, actually, just monotone voiceover and grainy footage of elderly people in front of ancient desktop computers. But it was definitely among the most condescending of these tapes, comparing a computer mouse to using a claw machine and helpfully pointing out that no, gramps, you can’t reach inside the screen and pull information out.
I thought about that tape a lot while watching this week’s episode of What We Do In The Shadows, where the vampiric cast embraced their inner pop-pops and mee-maws by scaring themselves shitless with an email forward. As the episode opens, Nandor wants to check his email, so Guillermo sets the computer up for him. (I assume he set up the email address as well, even though Nandor was pretty proficient with the “thin machine,” all things considered.) Turns out, he’s only gotten two over the past decade: One for a preview screening of The Blind Side in 2009, and a chain email saying he will be horribly cursed by Bloody Mary if he doesn’t forward it to 10 people by sunrise—a real thing that was a sort of proto-Creepypasta in the ‘00s, for the young ones in the audience.
This plot, which kept Nandor, Nadja, and Laszlo together in the same room for nearly the entirety of the episode—and we all know how much I love their group dynamic—showed a different side of their characters, one that casts them in a different, and more helpless, light than usual. Screaming at the sound of the phone ringing and confidently asserting that “the email address shop must be closed this time of night,” they seemed like a bunch of doddering old fools, which is slightly different from the more general sense of cluelessness they normally exhibit—and a marked contrast with the ruthlessness Nandor, who was a big ol’ undead teddy bear in this episode, showed in life. Besides, it was a fun change of pace to have the three of them just running all slapstick-like around the mansion like they were in an Abbott and Costello movie.
Meanwhile, Guillermo’s evening begins with stepping out for a fun evening of staking practice (that’s not a euphemism—these are all virgins, remember?) and ends with him arriving home with a Tide Pen and some change after standing in line at an all-night Duane Reade soaked in blood while everyone pointedly pretends not to notice him. The out-of-touch vampires at home obliviously freaking out about an email while Guillermo was out murdering their brethren dovetailed so nicely with the idea of being shut away in a house for 50 years. (Yes, 1970 was 50 years ago now.) Vampires being out of touch with contemporary society is an idea that’s milked for laughs in pretty much every episode, but a whole household of vampires being stuck in the ‘70s is an intriguing new variation on the theme. Were they turned in the ‘70s, or was that just the decade when they decided to retreat into the mansion forever? Why were there so many of them? Communes were big then...
The strong writing—both in terms of structure and in terms of jokes; I laughed out loud a lot this week—was complemented by the great direction in the assault on Disco Vampire Mansion, which added a lot of fun found-footage touches as the show briefly transformed into the climactic scene of a horror movie. But what put “The Curse” over the top was Harvey Guillén’s performance; he really acted his ass off this episode, going through a whole season’s worth of emotions in less than 30 minutes. His crisis is deepening as his secret double life gets more violent and complicated, and although they had that sweet moment towards the end of the episode, it seems that Guillermo might not be Nandor’s lapdog too much longer.
- If Guillermo was unaware of the disco vampires, does that mean Nandor, Nadja, and Laszlo didn’t know them, either? Nandor makes a comment about “all these vampires getting murdered” at the end of the episode, implying they all talk to each other—just not over email.
- Colin Robinson being into Sandra Bullock kind of seems like an insult to Sandra Bullock? Sure, she’s a girl next door type, but she’s not that boring.
- He would like The Blind Side, though. That movie was like the mushy vanilla wafers at the bottom of a bowl of pudding.
- Nadja’s face standing in the doorway as Colin was droning on and on about email was priceless. I liked her eye makeup, too.
- “The topiary isn’t even erotic, it’s just giant balls.”
- Last fall, I was lucky enough to visit the set of What We Do In The Shadows—more on that next week—and one of the things they showed us was the wardrobe department, where we saw the ‘70s outfits worn by the disco vamps in this episode. They put a lot of detail into costumes only glimpsed for a few seconds by flashlight, which I respect.
- R.I.P. Derek. May the boxes of shrimp in the back of her van be a balm on your poor mother’s soul.
- I wouldn’t call it a good movie per se, but if you just can’t get enough of ‘70s vampire aesthetics, allow me to recommend Nocturna: Granddaughter Of Darkness, starring Nai Bonet (no relation to Lisa). Dracula’s granddaughter becomes a disco queen! You can watch it on YouTube.