What We Do In The Shadows

With the vampire genre tired and, uh… done to death, it needed resurrection with some fresh blood.

Vampires in present day Wellington, New Zealand being filmed by a documentary crew during the days nights leading up to a secret annual ritual. What We Do In The Shadows is all that, but more importantly it is a rip-roaring comedy, made as a mockumentary, that has the laughs coming so thick and fast, you’re bound to miss many. With the vampire genre tired and, uh… done to death in recent times, it needed resurrection with some, umm… fresh blood. This small-budget short film (86 minutes only!) takes all the familiar concepts of vampire-lore and looks at it in a real world scenario albeit via a humorous lens.

Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) are centuries old vampires and house-mates in Wellington. Viago, Vladislav and Deacon appear mostly normal, Petyr looks like Nosferatu. Between avoiding sunlight, trying to gain entry to nightclubs at night and generally trying to resolve their house-rule issues (Deacon refuses to do the dishes), they are soon joined by Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a university student recently transformed from human to vampire. Generational problems ensue, while the Viago, Vladislav and Deacon try to adapt to new technology, styles and as well as skirmishes with the local werewolf pack.

The writers-directors of the movie are two of the lead actors: Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement. By setting it up as a fake documentary (the movie starts with a disclaimer stating “unprecedented access” has been granted to the supposed-crew along with crucifixes to keep them safe), and then writing the leads as awkward and clumsy, the movie lends itself ripe for laughter. True to this, the laugh-out-loud moments do start from the first scene: when the main characters are introduced. The movie is kept simple too – it is rightly assumed that vampire lore is well-known enough that neither complication nor sophistication is required. It keeps the gags coming without getting crude, an achievement in itself considering the staple of the modern-day spoof.

Considering its roots, i.e. low-budget Kiwi comedy-horror, the movie is generous with on-screen blood. Yet, What We Do In The Shadows never becomes about the gore. The humour is spread out to witty lines, funny situations and odd-ball characters. Given the world it inhabits, it is only fitting that What We Do In The Shadows is second to the similar-but-serious Only Lovers Left Alive as the best vampire film of the year.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.