There are no words that I can find that can accurately express how much I enjoyed this film. It’s a silly romp of a movie with a ridiculous concept, but if anything that’s what makes What We Do In The Shadows work. It’s a mockumentary about vampires. Bear with me.
Enter Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement of Flight of The Conchords), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham). They’re vampires of varied ages spanning hundreds, even thousands of years, who are New Zealand roommates. They do things that every day people do like washing the bloody dishes, taking public transit, going out for wild nights on the town, and generally being ordinary blokes with extraordinary tastes. Through the introduction of Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) and Stu (Stuart Rutherford), their lives become injected with newness and the possibilities of finding a place within the modern world.
The chemistry in this group is akin to the cast of the Young Ones meets Monty Python. Highlights include them encountering a gang of werewolves who can’t swear, a familiar who is tethered to Deacon through his use of hypnosis, the eternal teenager Vladislav’s battle with the infamous The Beast, and epic bat fights. By far my affinity lies with Petyr, the centuries old vampire who’s silent, vicious, and probably has the sweetest heart that could exist in a lethal predator. It wouldn’t be detrimental to the film if I gave away more than that, but the joy in watching this film was the fact that I had no idea what it was about.
It’s a comedy that will make you spit your drink out for it being so clever. In many ways, the film lends itself to the eye of the former goth or the teenage angst-y wannabe vampire. The onslaught of the serious and romantic blood drinker on screen (ie., the horrendous Twilight, the great Only Lovers Left Alive), is bent in such a hilarious way here and it even references it as Nick constantly tells people he is the vampire from Twilight while being a complete doofus. It’s like kicking the vampire genre on the head with a funny rework of its own trope.
Viago is the dandy of the group and probably the one that falls in line with the modern vampire take. Yet he’s inept at blood drinking and leads the unseen and unheard camera crew through his dingy vampire digs. The camera stays dark, as one would expect, but there’s realism in the grime they live in: just four dudes living together. Only these guys forget to pick up their victims’ skeletons. The film does lag in a few parts, but it makes up for it in incredibly absurd scenarios and characters that linger in now memorized catchphrases and pranks.
Clement and Waititi are a fantastic comedy writing and directing team. Nothing misses the roving camera’s view since there is a lot to take in. There’s comedic mining in the paintings hung around the house, the every day citizens (possible victims) they encounter on the streets, and most especially, a party scene with a wide range of creatures of the night. Each of them fumble and there is much to fault them for, but it’s their genuine naivety to the new world that makes us love these characters. Clement and Waititi bring us unforgettable loveable losers.
What We Do In The Shadows is heartwarming as it is gut-busting.
(I’m not even going to put a trailer in here. Go see it.)
* Taika Waititi’s Two Cars, One Night (nominated for the 2005 Academy Award for Best Short Film):