Synopsis: What We Do In The Shadows chronicles the adventures of four vampire roommates trying to get by in a modern world that’s not always hospitable to the undead. Clement and Waititi, creators of the HBO hit series “Flight of the Conchords,” co-wrote, co-directed, and co-star in this hilarious send-up in which an endearingly unhip quartet of friends reveal to us or, rather, to the documentary crew that’s filming them, the details of their daily-make that nightly-routine. Ranging in age from 183 to 8,000, and in appearance from adorably youthful to Nosferatu-crusty, they squabble over household chores, struggle to keep up with the latest trends in technology and fashion, antagonize the local werewolves, cruise clubs for lovely ladies, and deal with the rigors of living on a very, very strict diet.
Release Date: February 13, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Mockumentary, Comedy
Out of all of the iconic horror movie monsters, vampires are the campiest. As such, they lend themselves well to comedic films as well as horror movies. Vampires have historically found themselves at the center of laugh-fests like Love at First Bite, Once Bitten, and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Even serious vampire films, like Fright Night or From Dusk Till Dawn, get lumped into the horror/comedy genre. Still, no matter how many vampire comedies have been made, there has never been one quite like What We Do in the Shadows.
Purporting to be a documentary, What We Do in the Shadows follows an immortal group of vampires from many different time periods who live together in a communal house in New Zealand. Three of the vampires – Vladislav (Jemaine Clement from “Flight of the Conchords”), Viago (Green Lantern‘s Taika Waititi), and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh from How to Meet Girls from a Distance) â do many of the same things that mortals do, like dividing up the housework and going out to clubs at night. The oldest vampire, the 8000-year-old Petyr (30 Days of Night‘s Ben Fransham), is a little rougher around the edges, and when he accidentally turns a human named Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer from “A Night at the Classic”) into a vampire, Nick joins the clan. Unfortunately, Nick has very little sense of what it means to be a secret vampire, and immediately goes around showing off his powers and touting his newfound vampirism. Not only that, but Nick’s human friend, Stu (Stuart Rutherfod from Boy), starts hanging around the house as well, and that leads to even more problems. The vampires just want to live out their immortality in peace and quiet, but Nick and Stu have other ideas.
What We Do in the Shadows is, quite literally, interviews with the vampires, but this is a long way from Anne Rice. The writing and direction are credited to Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (Vladislav and Viago, respectively), but the film has an improvised feel, as if the script was simply an outline and much of the meat of the story was made up on the spot. Even though the situations are ludicrous, What We Do in the Shadows is effective as a mockumentary because of the honest, off-the-cuff feel of the production – it actually seems like a documentary crew was granted access to a society of vampires with the promise of safety so that they can report the truth. And it’s funny as heck.
What We Do in the Shadows not only recognizes all of the corny stereotypes of the classic vampire movies, it embraces them. From the Nosferatu-like appearance of Petyr to the vampires’ ongoing feud with the werewolves (yes, there are werewolves, too), all of the conventions are there, and they’re all played for laughs. Everything is fair game, too, from the hilarious “bat fight” that ensues after a disagreement to the vampire’s attempt to persuade a guest that he is eating worms instead of spaghetti a la The Lost Boys. Clement, Waititi, and the rest of the cast know their vampire mythology, and they aren’t afraid to wink at the audience members who know theirs, too. What We Do in the Shadows is a fantastic parody of an oft-exploited subgenre.
While What We Do in the Shadows will undoubtedly get lumped into the found footage genre, it’s presented as a completed documentary, so it has a much more professional feel. Cinematographers D.J. Stipsen (The Golden Hour) and Richard Bluck (Beyond the Edge) both have documentary experience, so the photography looks and feels authentic. Although there are some moments of chaos, complete with the dreaded shaky-cam syndrome, most of the film is shot with Steadicams or on tripods, so it’s got a more polished look than the average mockumentary. The look of What We Do in the Shadows is slicker than most found footage movies, so it’s much easier to watch.
There’s a promotional poster for What We Do in the Shadows that lists a dozen quotes from different reviews, and they’re all the exact same word: “Hilarious.” Well, here’s number thirteen: “It’s Hilarious.” What We Do in the Shadows is full of the same deadpan, straight-arrow comedy that audiences have come to expect from Jemaine Clement in “Flight of the Conchords.” As would be expected, most of the humor is derived from the witty dialogue, such as when Deacon recounts the story of when Petyr changed him into a vampire – “and we’re still friends to this day!” Other laughs come from the film’s ability to poke fun at the vampire genre, such as how the guys can’t go anywhere unless they’re invited. Still other hysterical moments are supplied by the movie’s silly effects; they’re the types of ideas that would look too slick if the film had a big budget, so they’re done cheaply so as to intentionally look corny – and it works. The werewolf-vampire fights are a particularly amusing example, with werewolves “transforming” and vampires “flying” around; it’s all done cheesily and hysterically. Put it all together, and What We Do in the Shadows keeps audiences laughing from start to finish.
If there’s one thing that modern vampire movies has made abundantly clear, it’s that vampires just aren’t very scary anymore. What We Do in the Shadows recognizes this, and doesn’t even try to be a scary movie. Sure, there are bits where the vampires will try to shock and startle, but it’s mostly done in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. There aren’t any real scares in What We Do in the Shadows, but that’s not even close to the point to the film. First and foremost, it’s a comedy, and what the movie lacks in terror is more than made up for in laughs. Still, just because What We Do in the Shadows isn’t scary doesn’t mean that horror fans won’t enjoy it; it’s made for vampire movie fans, and the more subtle references that are understood by the viewer, the more entertaining that the film will be. What We Do in the Shadows doesn’t need to be scary to have bite.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jemaine Clement
- Screenwriter(s): Jemaine ClementTaika Waititi
- Cast: Jemaine Clement (Vladislav)Taiku Waititi (Viago)Jonathan Brugh (Deacon) Cori Gonzalez-Macuer (Nick)Stuart Rutherford (Stu)Ben Frasham (Petyr)Rhys Darby (Anton)
- Editor(s): Tom Eagles
- Cinematographer: Richard BluckD.J. Stipsen
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Plan 9
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA