What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary about vampires that stars most of the New Zealand comedy scene and is utterly hilarious.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Directors: Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement
Writers: Taiki Waititi and Jemaine Clement
Produced by: Fun Or Die and the New Zealand Film Commission
U.S. Release Date: 85 Minutes
Starring: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Rhys Darby, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford
What We Do in the Shadows is a vampire mockumentary produced and created by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Taika Waititi (Boy), that took them almost ten years to get into cinemas. It stars the pair that has been working in comedy together as vampires who live as flatmates and the other vampires they share a living space. The film was made for $1.6 million and is easily the funniest movie I’ve seen this year – and probably all of last year.
Waititi plays Viago who is the driving force behind What We Do in the Shadows. He is foppish, sweet and very interested in getting their story out in the world – very much the Interview with a Vampire brand of character. Clement plays a take on the man who inspired Dracula named Vladislav who is the sexy, violent, dramatic vampire derivative of the classic literary monster. They are joined by Jonathan Brugh as Deacon the younger, immature vampire and the cast of the film grows as auxiliary characters make the transitions into vampirism. Even the Twilight franchise and Blade are not above parody and both managed to be handled by the cast with both awareness and respect.
As mentioned in the paragraph above, What We Do in the Shadows plays with vampires from across various mythologies and from different, iconic eras in storytelling. Not only does this allow for a diverse range of characters – and by extension for the actors to bring wholly unique individuals to the screen – but it also gives them use these varied rules and restrictions for the sake of comedy. Everything from mind control/glamour to Christian artefacts are fair play in this film.
The crux of What We Do in the Shadows is that none of the cast (seasoned and new vampires alike), is that none of the characters are very good at what they do. Many of them are so caught up in their own hang ups to be able to excel in this dark world or they have some blockage that keeps them from reaching their full vampiric potential. The result is everything from over-the-top sight gags (many of which have to do with blood), to running gags (do the bloody dishes).
It’s also worth dropping that Rhys Darby (whom readers will remember playing Murray in Flight of the Conchords), leads a gang of werewolves that make a couple appearances throughout What We Do in the Shadows that not only embraces a different scale of supernatural creatures, but adds a level of depth to the dark world of Wellington as it appears in the movie, and walks away with the best one-liner of the entire film.
Another giant factor that contributes to the comedy of What We Do in the Shadows i that the film is largely improvised. The actors having the privilege to work on impulse lends a sense of reality and immediacy to the film that really, really works in the mockumentary structure. Despite the facts that Deacon, Vladislav, Viago, Peytr and everyone else the audience encounters is cartoonish in their inherent design – and especially in their costumes – they do feel very real, fully developed and almost relatable until they are ripping someone’s throat out and panicking about getting blood on the carpet.
Having Waititi and Clement take an auteur to approach to the making of What We Do in the Shadows and this brings an honesty to their performances and the final cut of the movie that is rarely found in huge studio productions. Everyone involved brings a true sense of joy to all the performances and the story being told. There is more fun on the screen in under two hours (and more clever lines), than I’ve seen in a long time. Viewers can tell the level of dedication this project has received and we all benefit from the creators’ efforts.
What We Do in the Shadows is a riot, it’s clever, it embraces a wide variety of mythologies and honours all the baggage that comes along with telling a story about supernatural characters. There is delight to be taken in all aspects of the movie and you are guaranteed to find some familiar faces.
THE BOTTOM LINE: SUPPORT VAMPIRE FLATMATES
Do yourself a favour, if you didn’t get a chance to donate to their Kickstarter in order to bring What We Do in the Shadows to more cities across the world, then go and check it out when it comes it a cinema near you.