When viewers first meet Officer O’Leary in Wellington Paranormal, she’s walking down Cuba Street in the city’s centre. It’s just past midnight, a teenager is standing alone in the middle of the mall, and the Wellington cop is eager to assist.
“She might’ve been left behind by her friends. She might be a bit lost,” O’Leary tells the camera as she approaches the girl. But when the officer asks if the teen is okay, something strange happens — a low growling that instantly sounds unnatural, accompanied a long stream of green-tinged vomit.
“As members of the New Zealand police force, it’s our job to offer support to those in need,” explains O’Leary’s partner Minogue when he arrives on the scene.
As Wellington Paranormal charts their exploits over the course of the series’ six episodes, the duo quickly discover that living up to that duty is more challenging, intriguing and downright absurd than they ever expected. Soon recruited to the Wellington Police’s first-ever paranormal unit by Sergeant Maaka, O’Leary and Minogue switch from tracking down pairs of stolen trousers to chasing a body-hopping demon, investigating a cow up a tree and wandering through ghostly parties.
Aliens, zombies, werewolves, vampires: they’re all part of the squad’s supernatural remit.
Investigating Wellington's vampire problem
Before they were riding in cars with demons and stumbling across crop circles, O’Leary and Minogue cut their teeth answering a noise complaint from Wellington’s strangest sharehouse — and certainly the abode with the longest-residing inhabitants (as seen in the absolutely real, we swear, feature documentary What We Do In the Shadows).
Vampires living together and feasting on humans was always certain to attract attention; however it’s the sound of the undead’s bloodsucking ways, their shouting amongst themselves and the smell of barbecue that the city’s favourite cops notice. Not that they’d recall anything out of the ordinary, apart from an obvious fire hazard, as it doesn’t take long for vamps Viago, Vladislav and Deacon to send the duo on their way with a few less memories.
Written and directed by as well as starring Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of The Conchords), What We Do in the Shadows gave the world many things: vampires squabbling over literally bloody dishes, vampires performing seductive dances, and vampires trying to find true love. The documentary also introduced O’Leary and Minogue, and introduced the viewing masses to Wellington’s otherworldly activities. It’s hardly a surprise that audiences wanted more afterwards, or that cops acting like “Mulder and Scully, but in a country where nothing happens”, as described by Waititi, became the film’s first spin-off.
Here's the partners popping in to settle a disturbance during the original film:
For devoted fans of the huge New Zealand box office hit (it currently sits in the country’s top ten local hits of all time, alongside Waititi’s other movies Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Wellington Paranormal is a return to a beloved strange world. For those making their entrance via Wellington Paranormal, chill out and enjoy the series as an alternative to Police Ten 7.
The extended Paranormal Wellington Universe
One film and one television series don’t necessarily comprise an on-screen universe — but over the coming years, there’ll be more where What We Do in the Shadows and Wellington Paranormal came from. A sequel to the film will delve into a group that both the movie’s bloodsuckers and the TV series’ cops cross paths with. They’re hairy, they howl at the moon once a month, and they’re werewolves.
Just when the cleverly named We’re Wolves will come to fruition is yet to be announced, but it’ll focus on a gang of lycanthropes headed by Rhys Darby’s Anton in What We Do in the Shadows. While little else about the film has been revealed, Waititi confirmed that it’s going ahead during his promotional duties for Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.
Given that one of the werewolf pack also makes an appearance in Wellington Paranormal, start crossing your fingers that O’Leary, Minogue and Maaka eventually return the favour.
Also on the horizon is an American version of What We Do in the Shadows - but as a ten-episode television series rather than a film. If vampires can share a house in Wellington, then they can do the same in the US, with Four Lions’ Kayvan Novak, Toast of London’s Matt Berry, The Magicians’ Harvey Guillen and comedian Natasia Demetriou starring as the American — and possibly British, given many of the cast’s backgrounds — undead.
Like the New Zealand-based movie, the series will be framed as a documentary that steps inside the nocturnal bloodsuckers’ not-quite-ordinary home — witnessing their squabbles, seeing them struggle with choosing an outfit when they can’t even see their own reflection, and wondering what (or who) they’re going to eat. While we’re just speculating, there’s no reason why Wellington’s Viago, Vladislav and company can’t take an evening holiday and make an appearance. Or, for that matter, why O’Leary, Minogue and Maaka can’t head overseas on some very important Wellington Paranormal task force business.
Until then though, be sure to tune in to watch some outstanding NZ Police work in the absolutely honest-to-God real factual documentary series Wellington Paranormal.
Wellington Paranormal is coming to SBS VICELAND from Tuesday 31 July with a double episode, with episodes out every week after that. Episodes will also be streaming at SBS On Demand each week, with the full season available from 28 August.