What We Do In the Shadows


If the notion of yet another mockumentary or a vampire flick makes you as nervous as a nosferatu in church, please let that feeling pass and sink your fangs in to What We Do in the Shadows. Funny, grotesque, extremely original and entirely sans sparkles, this hilarious effort from transcends both genre and subject and may make you laugh so hard you weep blood.


Opening with a spot on title card for the faux New Zealand Documentary Board, the film purports to show a film crew shadowing the nightly lives of a group of undead flatmates living in a suburb of Wellington. The interior of the house is suitably creepy but not altogether far off from a typical university housing share, right down to the cardboard chore wheel hanging on the wall of the untidy kitchen, and the initial squabbles between the four ancient bloodsucking roomies are less about eternal damnation and more about whose turn it has been for the last five years to do the mountain of blood encrusted dishes stacked up in the sink.


Our camera crew first introduces us to Viago (Taikia Waititi), a tidy dandy from the 18th century in a fancy frock coat who admonishes his flatmates to please put down some towels and newspaper before biting into their victims lest the furniture be bloodstained. Co-creator Jemaine Clement stars as mustachioed medieval count and torture enthusiast, Vladislav the Poker, who hasn’t been the same since a long ago besting by a shadowy figure referred to as “The Beast.” The baby of the group is leather pants enthusiast and erotic dancer (just wait for it) Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), who at a mere 183 years old, is still quite the firebrand. Rounding out the cast of oddball bloodsuckers is 8,000 year old nosferatu Petyr, the spitting image of Max Schreck, who lives in a stone crypt in the basement and rarely participates in the younger fellows’ domestic dramas.


The crew follows the vampires on their nocturnal rounds as they primp for a night out, which is hilariously difficult when you don’t show up in mirrors, and attempt to gain entry to Wellington’s hottest nightspots without much success – they have to be invited in, you see. In an effort to lure victims to their house, Deacon sets his beleaguered suburban housewife familiar Jackie (Jackie Van Beek) the task of bringing over a couple of virgins for a dinner party. Things go predictably, hilariously, scarily wrong and mookish victim Nick ends up being accidentally turned into a vampire by Petyr. Nick’s attempts as a modern clueless guy to integrate into vampire society provides much of the comedy and plot for the latter half of the film, as does his and the gang’s friendship with Stu, a taciturn but lovable human computer programmer who helps them enter the 21st century through the wonders of the internet. Lest you worry that this is a strictly vampiric affair, werewolves and zombies also get some nice screen time and all the insanity culminates in a hilarious interspecies masquerade ball that’s the social event of the undead year.


Shot entirely in New Zealand on a kiwi sized budget – the filmmakers used Kickstarter to get the funds for distribution in the US – What We Do in the Shadows nonetheless has a great, professional look. The effects are used wisely and well, the sets and costumes are on point, the overall visual styling is a great blend of funny and scary. Co-directors Taika Waititi (director of Eagle vs. Shark and Boy) and Jemaine Clement (one half of Flight of the Conchords) are no amateurs at making people laugh, but this film proves they could be the successors to the kiwi horror mantle held so gloriously by Peter Jackson. Though some reviewers have suggested this is less a cohesive film and more a series of set pieces and skits that don’t quite all tie together, I would disagree. I think the film has a nice emotional narrative thread that runs through it. It’s a great fun night out at the movies and a MUST for anyone who’s a fan of fright flicks and bloody good fun.