What we do in the Shadows

DIRECTOR: Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi  WRITER(s): Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi CAST: Jonathan Brugh, Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford, Ben Fransham, Jackie van Beek

Vampires and Werewolves, Zombies and Witches – haven’t we all just had enough? The amount of content churned out featuring one if not all of these beings is never-ending; Arguably Shaun of the Dead is responsible for triggering a more mainstream and light-hearted tone to the flurry of living dead features that have since plagued our screens at home and in the cinema; with the current trend of comedy dramas like Zombieland, Warm Bodies and more recently Life after Beth still trailing after it, there’s no signs of it ceasing.

Admittedly the mockumentary technique is just as weathered, and more recent efforts have produced some great (Summer Heights High) and some poor excuses for comedy content (I’m looking at you United We Fall). It was only a matter of time before the astronomical response to books and shows such as the Twilight Saga and True Blood series set off a sub-genre of Vampire and Werewolves comedies all on its own.

What we do in the Shadows is the first and hands down the funniest. The New Zealand mockumentary is as hilarious and absurd as it is smart, sharp and bizarrely, despite its tiresome theme and format, still relevant. 

The film follows four housemates residing in present-day Wellington, NZ; they navigate through relationships and the usual mundane of everyday life (though theirs reasonably longer than most and more bloody) in a sort of  Real World come This is Spinal Tap  mock  up … but with Vampires. When they unwittingly turn dinner guest Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer)  into a vampire,  the semi-harmonious domestics between the original four, become turbulent and soon they’re finding themselves trying to keep out danger from ‘unsuspecting’ humans.

Trying to fit into a world they were never made to feel part of when they were mortal, Viago, Vlad, Deacon and Petyr (a striking and non-speaking reclusive Nosferatu one) all hail from different timelines. Giving them more depth of character than the average creature of the night and, I suspect for the actors, more comic fodder for the oddities  each one possess.  

Written and directed by Waititi and Clement (starring as vampires Viago and Vlad, respectively, the latter known for Flight of the Concords) the result is a sharp, consistent, observational film where everyone who graces the screen manages to deliver the punch line through a subtle look and/or a funny line – everyone. Jonathan Brugh as Deacon, the one who fancies himself the ‘pretty boy’ rock star of the clan and can transform into a bat (especially when angry or looking to make a speedy exit) is brilliant, but then so are Waititi as 18th century gentleman vampire (who lays newspapers down when feeding) and Clement ( the alpha-male goateed vampire –  un-ironically labelled  the “Poker” because Impaler was taken). 

There are plenty of laughs outside of the spooky setting and on the streets of Wellington. Especially when the vamps head out on the town and find themselves battling the usual tropes – like waiting to be invited into nightclubs rather than walking in; having to watch sunrise via  YouTube… and hating on Werewolves. Stuart Rutherford and Jackie Van Beek are equally endearing and engaging as the human companions of the bloodsucking housemates. 

Forget the dreamy adolescent heart-throb –  alarmingly favoured by audiences today – these lot are haggard, slightly eccentric and definitely more fun.


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