Saturday, July 10, 2021

Wellington Paranormal, on CW

So far, Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement’s What We Do in the Shadows has been far more successful launching a shared monster universe than the mediocre remake of The Mummy starring Tom Cruise (supposedly the first film of Universal’s “Dark Universe”). A sequel is still in development, but Waititi & Clement have already spun-off two series. The first (predating the like-titled FX series) finally airs in the American market when Wellington Paranormal premieres tomorrow on the CW.

Wellington Officers Minogue and O’Leary appeared in the original film and they have not gotten any more intuitive or observant since then. They are almost genetically incapable of processing anything outside their narrow frame of reference. Yet, they keep responding to cases involving supernatural elements, so Sgt. Maaka recruits them for his special Paranormal squad. Maaka believes, but he only inspires modestly greater confidence than the plodding uniform officers.

In the original first NZ season, Minogue and O’Leary work cases involving demonic possession, alien abduction (and cow abduction), ghostly hauntings, werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Clement only co-wrote two episodes, the first “Demon Girl” and the last, “Zombie Cops,” but they are all quite funny, blending the outrageously goofy with the drily droll.

Arguably, the funniest material is found in “Things that Do the Bump in the Night,” wherein Minogue and O’Leary uncover a ghostly party of 1970s swingers, who died in waterbed and cheese fondue accidents. Like the original film,
Wellington Paranormal is shot mockumentary-style, but the effects look pretty good on-screen. The movements of the possessed girl in the first episode are even kind of creepy.

Mike Minogue and Karen O’Leary are amazingly deadpan as their namesakes. She is slightly more assertive and he is probably several notches dumber, but they both find ways to mine laughs from their characters’ utter cluelessness. Their bantering rhythms are very funny, but they would make you scream and pull your hair in frustration if you actually had to work with them.

Fans should eat up the series with a big spoon, especially when Cori Gonzalez-Macuer pops up in episode five, “A Normal Night,” as Nick, one of the vampires from the film. It is all quite snappy, perhaps because Clement helmed four of the six season one episodes. Jackie van Beek directed the other two: “Bump in the Night,” perhaps the season’s best and “The She Wolf of Kurimarama Street,” which is maybe the slowest of the six, but it is still pretty amusing.

All horror-comedy franchises should be as much fun as the Wellingtonverse or whatever it is. Remember how the
Ghostbusters remake was supposed to launch its own shared universe? What Feig and company got wrong, Clement and associates get right. Frankly, it is just hard to figure why it took so long for it to get picked up in the U.S. Highly recommended for viewers who dig the franchise in particular and the sub-genre in general, Wellington Paranormal premieres tomorrow (7/11) on the CW.