What happens when you take a tired subject (vampires) and shoot them in an overused format (mockumentary)? These ingredients alone are nothing special, but in the hands of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, they have come together to create the freshest comedy in years with What We Do In The Shadows.
Waititi and Clement (who both write, direct, and star) have taken their natural New Zealand brand of humour that we have come to know and love from projects such as Eagle Vs. Shark and Flight of Conchords, and applied it to the supernatural. They have always been able to take the mundane and make it funny, but when the flatmates arguing over dirty dishes happen to be vampires it adds a whole new level of delicious absurdist humour.
The nocturnal flatmates who have settled in the small town of Wellington, NZ play off one another brilliantly. There’s Viago (Waititi), the 18th Century ‘Dandy’ who tries to handle things diplomatically and comes up with things like the chore wheel. Vlad (Clement) is a powerful vampire from the medieval ages, a kinky alpha who’s into torture and overcompensating for his insecurities. At 183 years old, Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the ‘young bad boy’ of the group who acts like a teenager with a century-long hangover. Then there’s the 8000 year old Nosferatu-inspired Petyr, who’s like the grandfather at the end of the table who doesn’t say much. Partway through the movie they convert Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) who becomes the new guy with a few things to teach them about modern living and tells girls at bars that Twilight was based on him. Nick’s mate Stu ends up being the only human allowed to hang out with them, Stu’s alright (see if you can find Stu in this pic).
According to a recent interview, Clement and Waititi had been working on a script for years, resulting in about 150 pages of jokes. In addition to this, much of the film was improvised. They just shot everything and found the narrative in the editing room, much like a real documentary. It doesn’t really matter that there’s not much of a story. The film more than gets by on the strength of its concept, performances, jokes, gags (not the same as jokes, believe me, there are plenty of both) and overall cleverness. In addition to the spot-on humour, there are several deceivingly complex effects and set pieces, including a rotating hallway fight that isn’t quite as heavily choreographed as the one in Inception, but it would still make Fred Astaire proud.
What We Do In The Shadows is like an 85 minute trailer for itself. The laughs are constant with rapid fire comedy coming in all forms: deadpan, slapstick, absurd, dark, puns, one liners… you name it. With all the material they came up with it’s not hopeless to wish for a sequel, or better yet, a series! The content certainly merits it.
Also, don’t forget to check out our exclusive interview with Jemaine and Stu!