What We Do In The Shadows
Directors: Taiki Waititi, Jermaine Clement.
Screenplay: Jermaine Clement, Taiki Waititi.
Starring: Jermaine Clement, Taiki Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford, Ben Fransham, Jackie van Beek, Rhys Darby, Elena Sejko, Simon Vincent, Cohen Holloway, Duncan Sarkies, Aaron Lewis, Jason Hoyte, Karen O’Leary, Mike Minogue.
“Yeah some of our clothes are from victims. You might bite someone and then, you think, ‘Oooh, those are some nice pants'”.
Anyone familiar with the little independent, Antipodean comedy Eagle vs Shark or the cult TV series Flight of the Conchords will happen to find themselves on comfortable ground with What We Do In the Shadows as the co-creators of these works, Taiki Waititi and Jermaine Clement collaborate again to deliver one the most genuinely funny comedies for some time.
There’s a big event for the undead in Wellington, New Zealand called ‘The Unholy Masquerade’ and upon the day, a documentary film crew are allowed access to film a bunch of vampires as they share their experiences and what everyday life is like for these creatures of the night.
Fly on the wall mockumentaries is a format that been done many times before. The TV series The Office has had great success in recent times and the likes of Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap has made a lasting impression on people since it’s release in 1984. However, Waititi and Clement have came up with a new (and strangely obvious) idea on how to gain more mileage from this particular style of filmmaking. Why has no one tapped into the lore and dark myths of vampires and used it for laughs? Granted, some films like Vampire’s Kiss in 1989 had an outrageous Nicolas Cage using his couch as a coffin and (famously) eating live cockroaches and Roman Polanski’s 1967 film The Fearless Vampire Killers has now found cult status but vampire’s, probably now more than ever, are in very hot demand what with the Twilight movies and HBO’s True Blood. We can’t seem to get enough of them but we’re still taking them all very seriously. As a result, this film comes at a perfect time.
For a project of this nature to work, though, you have to be up on your vampire knowledge and the pop-culture surrounding them. By this, I mean from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice; Blade to The Lost Boys and not forgetting Nosferatu along the way. You also have to be open to the ways and needs of a vampire’s existence. If you are all of the above, then sit back and allow this film to sink it’s teeth in and deliver it hilariously satirical comedy.
First and foremost, the characters are brilliantly written and every one of the actors deliver brilliant performances. Each of our vampires have their own style (or lack of, as the case may be); we have the 379 year old Viago (Taika Waititi), the dandy gent of Anne Rice lore. 183 year old Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), the cool rock star type a la The Lost Boys. 862 year old Vladislav (Jermaine Clement) who riffs on Bram Stoker’s work and 8,000 year old Petyr (Ben Fransham), hiding in his darkened room and resembling the Max Schreck of Nosferatu.
As they co-habit and flat share, they argue about domestic duties and who’s turn it is to do the dishes (Deacon hasn’t done them in five years) while anal-retentive Viago would like his flatmates to give some consideration for the decor and furnishings by putting newspapers down before feasting on their victims as the arterial spray can cause quite a mess. They even knit a scarf for their human friend who they all agree not to feed on. It’s these exchanges with each other that provide genuine laughs and as they scour the New Zealand night scene for “food” they must rely on doormen to invite them into nightclubs as they can’t enter on their own accord and have run-in’s with the local Werewolves who are so gentlemanly and well mannered that they don’t want to be known as Swearwolves.
Admittedly, there are periodic lulls but, thankfully, they’re brief and when the laughs are delivered they can be genuinely side splitting. I can often be very critical of both horror and comedy as I often find that they either try too hard or simply don’t have the material but What We Do In the Shadows really hits the spot with sharp and observant humour.
A hugely successful medley of a filmmaking style and pop-culture sub-genre that is, without a doubt, one of the silliest and funniest films of 2014.
Trivia: The hill where the vampires have a run-in with the werewolves is the same hill where the scenes were filmed in “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” where Frodo and the hobbits are running and hiding from the Ring-Wraith under the roots of a tree.