What We Do in the Shadows – Film Review

I’m not fussed to watch the latest Thor extravaganza, but its release at least reminded me to track down director Taika Waititi’s earlier film, a mockumentary about house-sharing vampires in Wellington, which he made with Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement.

This gloriously silly movie had me right from the opening scene, in which the unseen “documentary team” follows Viago, a 379 year-old dandy, Romantic 4ever and the unofficial leader, as he wakes up his housemates for a kitchen discussion about the house chores. They include Vladislav (age: 862), an old-school medieval vampire who’s a bit of a pervert but at least no longer tortures people in his dungeon; Deacon (age: 183), the young rebel of the group who emigrated to New Zealand after a stint as a Nazi vampire and hasn’t done dishes in five years; and Petyr (age: 8,000), a Nosferatu-style monster who’s lost his human appearance and speech and lives in a stone coffin in the basement. But he’s still expected to at least tidy up the floor of his dwelling and sweep the skeletal remains of his victims once in a while.

Our ageless men-children are all pretty much your classic vampires: no reflections in the mirror, strong reaction to silver, crucifixes and sunlight, powers of mind control, flying and transforming into bats. They’re also hopelessly out of touch and clueless about modern technology and fashion, and there’s sort of loose plot about how their lives change with the appearance of Nick, a young working-class guy recently turned into a vampire, and his geeky human friend Stu who teaches the gang how to google virgins and bid on eBay.

But the movie is really more an ensemble piece that puts characters, chemistry and jokes first. Just like Flight of the Conchords it’s a type of comedy that elicits soft chuckles rather than big belly laughs, but it’s consistently clever, amusing and sure to have a high rewatchability for its treasure trove of gags and set pieces, including hypnotised cops, a blood vomit scene and run-ins with a pack of werewolves. While the characters are weirdly adorable and the overall tone is warm-hearted, the movie also doesn’t pull back on horror, gore and violence, which is both comedic and gruesome. The mundanity of the setting (let’s face it, you don’t think Wellington when you think vampires) adds to the humour and while, being a mockumentary, the movie is not visually stunning I liked the frozen-in-time interior design of the vampires’ house. What We Do in the Shadows is a treat, whether you’re a fan of comedy or vampires or both.

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