What We Do in the Shadows, 2014.
Directed by Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi.
Starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford, Jackie van Beek, Ben Fransham.
A documentary film crew follow the lives of four vampires as they go about adapting to boring 21st century life.
The vampire renaissance that occured during the last decade did manage to bring about a few gems to the genre – 30 Days of Night, Daybreakers and Fright Night all did their bit to show the well hadn’t run dry just yet – along wth the bollock-achingly dire but commercially successful Twilight and Underworld franchises, but you know that a genre has done all it is really going to do once the spoofs start appearing. There have been vampire comedies before of course, but how relevant or appealing Vampire in Brooklyn or Dracula: Dead and Loving It are to a 21st century audience looking for irony and clever references is debatable – they weren’t really relevant or appealing when they first came out!
So for audiences used to the current crop of bloodsucking freaks we now have What We Do in the Shadows, which eschews Leslie Nielsen-style slapstick humour and takes on the guise of a documentary, surely the modern equivalent of the ‘… in Space’ angle that used to happen when there were no more ideas left for filmmakers to apply to their creations. Fortunately, What We Do in the Shadows absolutely nails the gallows humour and geeky love of the subject matter that make these mockumentary films work (or not, as is most often the case) and the end result is nothing short of hilarious, which is something of a novelty in itself as far as modern comedies go.
With not much of a plot to talk about, the film is literally a documentary crew following the everyday (or night) activities of a group of vampires that share a flat, although most of these activities are the mundane things that we all have to do, such as hoovering, sweeping up, etc. The fact that there is no proper story plays in the film’s favour as we learn about the four vampires – Vladislav the Poker (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Viago (Taika Waititi) – whose aim at the jugular vein is always a little off – and the 8000 year-old Petyr (Ben Fransham), who resembles Max Schrek’s Count Orlok from Nosferatu – just by what they do, say and how they interact with each other, and actions like deciding what to wear before they go out (they can’t see themselves in the mirrors – geddit?) take on new levels of humour as they wryly look at the camera in a way not seen this convincingly since the heyday of The Office. They even riff on the noodles/worms scene from The Lost Boys as they try to lure some prey to one of their dinner parties, but naturally it’s not as dark or successful as in that film.
After one of these dinner parties they feed on one hapless victim and a while after he turns back up at their flat a fully fledged vampire. However, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) is obviously a lot younger than his fellow bloodsuckers and doesn’t share their sense of discretion, and it isn’t long before he is telling all and sundry about his vampiric powers. This thread does add a bit of plot to the film and introduces some werewolves to the equation – which leads to a hilarious encounter involving stick throwing and crotch-sniffing – but the joy is still watching the four main leads interacting with each other and their constant looks to the camera and attempts to fit in to modern life.
Clocking in at 82 minutes the film checks out before the jokes begin to get a little thin and if your knowledge of vampire movies and folklore doesn’t go beyond Twilight you won’t get the full benefit out of the film, but like all good parodies, if you know what is being spoofed and you’re not precious over your beloved vampires then What We Do in the Shadows is the most accurate parody since Black Dynamite and one of the most brilliant vampire movies of the last two decades. The trouble now is where does the vampire go next?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★