What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Meet Viago. He’s just an ordinary guy, who likes to do ordinary things. He likes to read, take in a movie, and loves a night out on the town with his housemates Vladislav, Deacon and Petyr. All the normal things you’d expect from a group of house-sharing guys, right? Oh, and they also like to drink the blood of the innocent, sleep in coffins and sire familiars to do their dark bidding. Add a documentary film crew to the mix, and you’ve got What We Do in the Shadows; one of the great comedies of the year.

The ‘mockumentary’ has always been a risky gambit, but Kiwi filmmakers Taika Waititi (Eagle Vs Shark) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) have absolutely hit it out of the park here.

Whereas other depictions of vampires have been steeped in violence and equality, Waititi and Clement have taken all that nonsense aside and taken a ‘real world’ view. The result is a realisation, on film, that vampires really are frozen in a state of perpetual immaturity; people of their own time, having to constantly live through an ever changing world both socially and technologically. Go out in any university town, and you’ll see students causing a ruckus, thinking that these good times will never end, that they’ll be students forever. Apply that mentality to immortal Vampires, and the results are not only hilarious, but genius.

The assembled cast sublimely complement one another throughout. You have Viago (Waititi), a 379 year-old classic romantic, who likes to keep things prim and proper; Vladislav (Clement), 862 years old, with a penchant for torturing, and a self confessed pervert; Deacon (Jonny Brugh) the ‘kid’ of the group coming in at a paltry 183 years old, and Petyr (Ben Fransham), an 8,000 year old full-on Nosferatu tribute who is, let’s just say, the strong silent type. A show stealing cameo by Rhys Darby as the leader of a pack of werewolves (not swearwolves) adds icing to the cake, and you’ll be quoting him for weeks after, guaranteed.

The gags are frequent and plentiful, including the turning of local bloke Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), who insists on telling everyone he meets he’s a vampire, ghost cups, getting glammed up for a night on the town without the aid of a mirror, and of course, drinking the blood of the innocent; and there’s plenty of that.

Another of the many strengths here is that it knows it’s not merely a comedy-documentary. It’s horror. As such, they don’t shy away from the blood and gore. Innocents get their throats cut, vampires explode, and the cleanup is biblical. What adds to the genius of it, is that all these extraordinary things are happening in the most ordinary of environments. It’s so cleverly shot, that it makes you think that this nonsense could be happening next door. It’s in this that it absolutely thrives.

What We Do In The Shadows is an absolute delight to watch, and there is no hesitation in saying that it more than holds its own with classics such as This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show. Vampire comedy is a difficult thing to get right, but the stake really hit the heart here. Essential viewing.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

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