In 2013, the New Zealand Documentary Board commissioned filmmakers Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi to film the lives of four vampires living in the Wellington suburb of Te Aro. Donning crucifixes and garlic, Clement, Waititi and an unsuspecting film crew live with the vampires giving us a glimpse of the day-to-day struggles, they face living in today’s world.
This cast of vampires include Viago (Taika Waititi), the leader of the pack. At 379 years old, this Victorian-aged vampire lives a neat and tidy life, especially when he lays down absorbent towels just before feasting on his next victim. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is the sexy 862-year-old, Russian vampire (not sure how he arrived in New Zealand). Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the youngest at 183 and self-proclaimed party animal. Finally, Petyr (Ben Fransham) is the oldest at over 8,000 years old. Petyr’s age has deformed his body and facial feature, making him the scariest one in appearance.
What We Do in the Shadows documents various facets of the vampiric lifestyle including the role of a vampire’s familiar, humans who do the bidding of vampires and receive protection from other vampires. It explores the relationship with rival pack of Werewolves, led by its Anton (Rhys Darby).
The fun starts when a new recruit, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Maucuer) wants to be part of the pack. He brings his own best friend and familiar Stu (Stuart Rutherford), who is a computer wiz and teaches the vampires about YouTube and Facebook. The vampires are having a hard time not only accepting a new recruit to their ranks but forcing him to make changes in his life for the sake of the group.
What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious “mockumentary” with laughs coming at you scene after scene. The movie is shot in the “reality show” style consisting of talking head interviews and clips similar to This is Spinal Tap. The movie succeeds by grounding the supernatural world of vampires into reality. Events make sense to audiences and does not resort to wackiness.
A movie filled with gags and bits would become tiresome, but the source of the humor comes in the tragic irony and pathos of the vampiric life. When Viago is hungry, he brings his “date” home for a meal. The empathic Viago engages in a fascinating discussion of her dreams and long term future and then kills her. The movie also explores other themes like friendship, loyalty, and survival.
What We Do in the Shadows is one of the funniest movies so far this year. The film’s jokes and gags consistently hit. Writers Clement and Waititi give us the storyline that actually tells a compelling story and the style of the film is well-balanced giving each character a moment to shine. As a documentary, the lives of vampires are interesting from beginning to end.
The movie has comedic scary moments but were safe enough for an adult needing an opportunity to laugh real hard.