Being a vampire is serious business. If there’s not an ornate castle to stalk, there’s a millennia-spanning conflict to be fought or a love triangle to brood over. And so it’s rare that we see a lighter side to these mythical beings, never mind a side as all-out silly as What We Do In The Shadows, a mockumentary from New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi and Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement.
Best summed up as This Is Spinal Tap meets Only Lovers Left Alive, WWDITS begins in the basement of a suburban Wellington house, as a coffin opens, and a figure emerges. This familiar image is subverted when the slowly rising vampire stops to self-consciously greet the camera, before pushing himself up through the air like an awkward swimmer. This is Viago (Waititi), a renaissance dandy out of place in modern society, and our guide through the lives of his housemates. We’re then introduced to Vladislav ‘the Poker’ (Clement), a former tyrant with rather old-fashioned values, Deacon (Brugh), who, at 183, is the young bad boy of the group, and 8000-year-old Petyr (Fransham), who terrifies even his housemates with his Nosferatu-esque features.
Adhering closely to the reality format they’re imitating, Clement and Waititi follow these characters through their everyday life as well as their supernatural machinations – these vampires spend as much time arguing over who does the dishes as they do sucking blood. There is a story to be told, though; Viago deals with the memory of a lover from decades past, Vladislav encounters his nemesis ‘The Beast’, the whole gang find themselves having to train up a newly-sired vampire, and a gang of werewolves cause trouble. While it is endearing to watch how these experiences help the characters adapt to the twenty-first century, the film’s one weakness is perhaps its narrative structure – the overly everyday presentation leaves it without a particularly dramatic climax.
But that is hardly a problem, because WWDITS is funny. Really, really funny. Best illustrated by a scene in which Viago prepares to bite into a victim’s neck by putting down newspaper sheets so as to avoid staining the floor, this film has an intense understanding of both horror clichés and social norms and is relentless in its parody of them. A particular highlight is a joke explaining vampires’ preference for virgin blood…
What We Do in the Shadows is both a refreshingly different take on vampire conventions and one of the funniest comedies of the year. Horror fan or not, you’ll be in howls of laughter throughout its relatively short running time, and you’ll have a great time in the company of this uniquely immortal gang of misfits.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10