Written by Molly Wedgwood
I’ve always had a vampire thing. Even before vampires were even “a thing”, I had a thing. And although I appreciate how easy it is to get a fix during this post Twilight world, the quality of the product has dropped significantly. Therefore, I will readily admit, I was slightly skeptical going into What We Do in the Shadows, an 85-minute supernatural concoction cooked up by former Flight of the Conchords alum Jemaine Clement and Academy Award Nominated director Taika Waititi. Shot mockumentary style, the film follows the night-to-night exploits of four vampires sharing a flat in Wellington, New Zealand.
Here we’re introduced to the world by Viago (Waiti), a 379 year-old dandy, as he rounds up his fellow day lumbering comrades for an important flat meeting. The problem: Deacon, the youngest of the group at 183, has not done his bloodstained dishes for the past five years. Of course, the only one exempt from chores, and the meeting, is Petyr, the Nostferatu-type who lives in the basement, since you can’t really make an 8000 year old do anything, can you? Vladislav the Poker, aged at 862, is the fourth flatmate that makes up this vampire quartet and an obvious wink at Vlad the Impaler, popularly known as Dracula.
The film follows these four wayward gentlemen as they prepare for the Unholy Masquerade, a flagship event for the undead community of Wellington, which includes zombies, witches, and banshees. Other supernatural creatures stalking the streets of this New Zealand town include a pack of werewolves, who our heroes naturally have beef with. Fun fact: the exterior of their flat is the headquarters of Peter Jackson’s production company.
Part of what makes this film so special is the creator’s understanding of supernatural lore from the historical to pop cultural, which they deliver with pitch perfect Seinfeldian subtly. One of the best bits involves a hilarious “getting ready” montage, where they each take turns hand drawing one another as they try on clothes because vampires do not have reflections.
This and, pretty much every joke in the film, makes tired vampire tropes fresh again. With a budget of only $1.6M, this is independent cinema at its best, and you can tell that the creators put the money where they should. Filmbuffs and cinephiles will appreciate the creator’s use of form; the sound design in particular is fantastic and the mockumentary style feels reinvented thanks to the supernatural bent. What We do in the Shadows is a must see and perhaps one of the best comedies of the decade.