First look UK TV review: Wellington Paranormal
Ivan Radford | On 05, Apr 2021
“We appear to have come across a large circle in some crops. Not sure what to call it.” That’s the sound of New Zealand coming face to face with the paranormal in Wellington Paranormal. A spin-off from What We Do in the Shadows, it expands the universe surrounding that vampire mockumentary – and, more specifically, its unique sense of humour.
It’s not just the sense of humour, though, that made the film and subsequent TV series such a charming delight; it’s the unwavering sense of politeness, with every character displaying unflappable civility in the face of even the weirdest and spookiest stuff. That incurious, calm and courteous nature not only makes for a uniquely likeable world to spend time in, but also ensures a consistent deadpan delivery from everyone on screen that makes for hilarious viewing. No matter what happens, we know that Officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary) will be unfazed, upbeat and probably offer anyone within a 1-mile radius a cup of tea.
And there are certainly some weird happenings in store – you know a show is going to be good when a cow gets stuck up a tree. The first sign of weirdness comes from the local mall, where a young girl becomes possessed by “Bazu’aal of the Unholy Realm”. Enter Sergeant Ruawai Maaka (Maaka Pohatu), the gruff veteran of the police’s secret paranormal unit – secret only because nobody’s ever bothered to accept his invitation to go into his office and find out more.
But go in Minogue and O’Leary do, and find themselves tasked with tracking down the body-hopping demon, which has plans to open a hellmouth in the town centre. That seems like a piece of cake when other strange beings surface, from plant-based aliens and werewolves (not swear-wolves) to a zombie outbreak and a familiar face at the local hospital blood bank.
Jemaine Clement, who co-created the series with Taika Waititi after teaming up for What We Do in the Shadows, directs a number of the episodes, alongside the wonderful Jackie van Beek (The Breaker Upperers), and they balance the mockumentary visuals superbly with the flashes of supernatural effects, keeping everything low-tech enough to be convincingly mundane.
Anchoring the whole thing, meanwhile, is O’Leary and Minogue’s chemistry, which is rooted in a mix of clueless banter from Minogue (corrected by the more sensible O’Learey) and loyal dedication to the process of the law as much as each other. Together they make for a laugh-out-loud take on the sci-fi and horror genre, one that finds fresh humour in exorcisms in the modern age (people looking at how to conduct them on YouTube) or monsters being as afraid of us as we are of them, let alone the unsettling sight of a family who all look very similar. It’s taken a long time to arrive on our screens, but with three seasons now landing in the UK, this frightfully funny treat has been more than worth the wait.
Wellington Paranormal: Season 1 to 3 is available on Sky Comedy. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.