Lurking in the shadows & hiding in plain sight, the vampires of Wellington are an incredibly charming and rather vicious breed. A documentary team are granted protection and are granted special access to the shared house of one such group of vampires. What We Do in the Shadows is the shocking account of what they discover.
Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Viago (Taika Waititi) and 8000 year old Peter (Ben Fransham) are vampires who live in a shared house in Wellington, New Zealand. Just like regular flats there is tension about the chores, arguing about each others attitudes and fun nights out on the town. Unlike most flats, when they invite people over for dinner it’s to eat them, not to just hang out. The flat is thrown into disarray when one of the “dinner guests” Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) is turned into a vampire. They now have a “baby” on their hands and he doesn’t exactly know the rules. Vampire hunters, werewolves and a creature known only as “The Beast” loom as very real threats to the “lives” that the vampires have created.
From the moment that the faux “The New Zealand Documentary Board” 80s style logo appears on the screen, you know this is a mocumentary which is going the whole hog. The slightly girlish Viago (he was a “dandy” in his human life) is our host for most of the film’s runtime, as he leads the documentary crew through the ins and outs of their vampire existence. It is actually not possible to explain how much this film made me laugh. I don’t remember the last time I watched a film with such a high joke hit rate as this one. The witty dead-pan New Zealand humour rained down like an unrelenting thunderstorm, leaving my sides sore and face aching. The comedy is just so on point, so fast and so accessible. There’s a fantastic mix of vampire jokes, pop culture references, and fish out of water gags that all hit the mark. This screenplay is sharp.
Taika Waititi was born to be an undead aristocrat. His slightly girlish delivery and almost childlike glee at the smallest of things was incredibly amusing. Jemaine Clement does dry sarcasm like no other, and his comedic timing is extraordinary. I loved stand-up comedian Cori Gonzalez-Macuer’s deathly dry delivery and every-man Stu, played by non actor and former IT professional Stu, was born to play his unassuming self in the world of the crazy undead. The creaky Kiwi villa was the perfect vampire lair, and as an ex-Wellingtonian I loved how the city was a perfect ordinary juxtaposition to what was going on in the shadows. While this was filmed in a more low-budget, mockumentary style, there were some impressive special effects such as vampires turning into bats in the blink of an eye.
I challenge you to find a film funnier than this Kiwi comedy in 2014. Witty, sharp and relentlessly funny, What We Do in the Shadows is an absolute riot.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Writer(s): Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Starring: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford
Runtime: 86 minutes
Release date(s): New Zealand: June 19 2014; Australia: September 4 2014