Analysis of What we do in the shadows

Summary A group of vampire roommates prepares for the visit of The Baron, discussing potential power struggles and awkward sexual tension between Nadja and Lazlo. Amidst their preparations and encounters with prejudice from college bros, they also deal with Colin Robinson's interference in their plans and a chance encounter with a man Nadja believes to be her reincarnated lover. During The Baron's visit, they learn of a mission they had forgotten and discuss taking over the New World using Staten Island as their base of operations. Throughout it all, Guillermo struggles to help his vampire master Nandor, who is having trouble getting out of his coffin, and they discuss the importance of their quest.


Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique What We Do in the Shadows has a unique take on the vampire genre, using a mockumentary-style and dark humor to tell the story. The characters are well-developed and have distinct personalities that play off each other well. The concept of vampires trying to fit in with the modern world is intriguing, and the theme of prejudice and otherness is well-explored. However, the overall plot feels disjointed at times, with some scenes feeling disconnected from the main story. Additionally, the humor can feel repetitive at times with several scenes relying on the same jokes. Despite these flaws, the show is still entertaining and has a lot of potential to grow in future seasons.
Suggestions: To improve the screenplay, the writers could focus on streamlining the plot and tying together the different storylines. They could also try to introduce more variety in the humor, while still keeping the show's signature dark tone. Exploring the emotional depth of characters beyond their humorous quirks could add some depth to the story. Overall, the series has potential to be a great dark comedy if the writers can continue to improve the storytelling and humor.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Guillermo

Guillermo is a human familiar to the vampire Nandor. He is diligent, practical and sensible in his service to his master. He has the ultimate goal of becoming a vampire himself and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. Guillermo is conflicted between his loyalty to his vampire master and his own desires for power and recognition. He struggles with his subservience to his masters and grapples with the ethical implications of vampire life. Guillermo is compassionate, intelligent and resourceful.



Nandor

Nandor is a traditional and formal vampire who values order and duty. He is the leader of the group and always tries to keep everyone on track. He can be confrontational and no-nonsense at times, but is also fascinated with macabre decor and has a sense of humor. He takes pride in his ornate vestments and is driven by duty to his more powerful vampire lord.



Lazslo

Lazslo is a vampire born in 1531 who prides himself on his handsomeness, enjoys luxury and indulgence, and is a bit of a show-off. He can be lazy and easily distracted, but is loyal to his roommates. He has a sexual history with Nadja and a complicated past with Nandor. He is charming, cunning, and always looking for ways to manipulate situations to his advantage.



Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Guillermo As the movie progresses, Guillermo's character arc revolves around his deepening desire to become a vampire and the ethical conflict he feels in his loyalty to his vampire masters. Initially, Guillermo is completely subservient to Nandor and dreams of becoming a vampire himself. However, as he sees the darker side of vampire life and begins to question whether he really wants to be a vampire, he starts to assert himself more. Guillermo's arc reaches a climax when he reveals to Nandor that he is actually a descendant of Van Helsing and has been responsible for secretly killing vampires. He ultimately takes a stand against his vampire masters, even as he continues to serve them. While Guillermo's arc is compelling, it could be more fully developed. At times, the film seems to gloss over Guillermo's internal conflict and his growing disillusionment with vampire life. In addition, his true motivations for wanting to become a vampire are not fully explored. This can make his transformation from a loyal servant to a rebel feel somewhat abrupt.
To improve Guillermo's character arc, the film could spend more time exploring his internal conflict and the reasons behind his desire to become a vampire. This could be done through flashbacks or other character development techniques. Additionally, the climax of Guillermo's arc could be more dramatic and impactful, with stronger consequences for his actions. Finally, the film could more fully explore the ethical implications of vampire life and how Guillermo grapples with these issues.
Nandor Nandor begins the movie as a strict traditionalist who resists change and feels threatened by The Baron's potential to take over the household. As the story progresses, Nandor becomes more willing to adapt to new situations and begins to appreciate Guillermo's loyalty and practicality. He gains a newfound respect for The Baron after realizing the power he possesses, but ultimately realizes that loyalty to his own group is more important than blindly following a powerful leader. By the end of the movie, Nandor has become more open-minded and willing to embrace new ideas. The character arc for Nandor is well-established and shows growth throughout the movie, but it could benefit from more specific and tangible moments of change. The arc primarily relies on Nandor's shifting attitude towards The Baron, but more pivotal scenes could help solidify his growth and make it more impactful.
To improve the character arc, consider adding scenes where Nandor is forced to make tough decisions or confront his own beliefs. Perhaps he has to choose between loyalty to The Baron or loyalty to his own group, and this choice ultimately leads to his growth. Additionally, exploring Nandor's relationships with other characters could add more nuance to his development. For example, if Guillermo becomes a key ally to Nandor, this could show his willingness to break from tradition and embrace practicality.
Lazslo Lazslo starts off as carefree and slightly childish, enjoying his power as a vampire but not taking things too seriously. However, as the gravity of their situation becomes more apparent, Lazslo's flippant attitude causes him to make mistakes and put himself and his roommates in danger. Through facing the consequences of his actions, Lazslo begins to mature and develop a sense of responsibility. He realizes that he needs to take their situation seriously and work together with his roommates to survive. The character arc for Lazslo is well done, but could benefit from more specific incidents that show his growth. Additionally, his motivations and goals could be further explored to give him more depth.
Show Lazslo making specific mistakes that put his roommates in danger, and have him take responsibility for his actions. Explore his desires and motivations more deeply - is he content with his current lifestyle, or does he have goals that he's been avoiding confronting? Show him working with his roommates to help them survive, either through his cunning or through his love and loyalty to them.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Power dynamics within the householdThe scene in the library reveals the power dynamic within the household, with Nadja being the mediator between Nandor and Lazlo. The impending visit from The Baron also adds to the theme of power dynamics within the group.The theme of power dynamics within the household is centered around the relationships and rank between Nandor, Laszlo, Nadja, and Guillermo. The characters constantly shift between who has the upper hand, and the arrival of The Baron escalates this tension.
Prejudice and othernessNadja and Lazlo encounter prejudice from college bros while hunting in the park. The encounter and the reason for them leaving Europe hint at the theme of prejudice and otherness. The scene also introduces Colin Robinson, an energy vampire, who is a clear other in the group.The theme of prejudice and otherness is present throughout as the vampire roommates struggle to fit into modern society. They are constantly othered by the mortals around them and face prejudices because of their vampire nature. The theme adds depth to the characters and explores the consequences of being different.
Loyalty and dedicationGuillermo shows his loyalty and dedication to Nandor when he helps him with his vestments and prepares the mansion for The Baron's arrival. Nandor also gives Guillermo an anniversary gift, a glitter portrait of themselves.The theme of loyalty and dedication is centered around the relationship between Nandor and Guillermo. The theme explores the lengths someone will go to show their loyalty to a master and the unbreakable bonds that can form through a relationship based on servitude.
Humor and satireThe scene with the LARP group is lighthearted and humorous, and Colin Robinson's energy-draining abilities add to the humor. Most of the scenes have a darkly humorous tone, blending satire with the horror elements.The theme of humor and satire is present throughout the screenplay. The screenplay blends horror with humor, especially in the scenes that involve the vampire roommates interacting with modern society. A sense of absurdity permeates the screenplay, which adds to the overall tone of the story.
Survival and power struggleThe discussion of The Baron's arrival and the preparation for his visit show how the vampire roommates are struggling for survival and power. The Baron's announcement that they need to use Staten Island as their base of operations adds to the theme of survival and power struggle.The theme of survival and power struggle is centered around the actions that the vampire roommates take to maintain their status and power in modern society. They struggle for survival and power in a world that is hostile towards them, and The Baron's announcement escalates the tension and power struggle between them.



Screenwriting Resources on Themes

Articles

Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goals evolve throughout the screenplay and include a desire for acceptance, control, and a sense of purpose.
External Goals The overarching external goal is for the vampire roommates to plan for The Baron's visit, including transportation, the blood feast, and purchasing supplies.
Philosophical Conflict The screenplay tackles themes of tradition, prejudice, change, and identity, with the philosophical conflict revolving around the tension between the old ways and the modern world.


Character Development Contribution: The goals and conflicts contribute to the characters' development by revealing their personalities, values, and beliefs, and how they adapt to changing circumstances.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The goals and conflicts contribute to the narrative structure by creating tension and suspense, building relationships and alliances, and establishing themes.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The goals and conflicts contribute to the thematic depth by exploring themes of identity, tradition, prejudice, and change, and how the characters navigate these themes in their own ways.


Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict

Articles

Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?