What We Do in the Shadows (2014) / Comedy-Horror
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence, sexual references and language
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford, Ben Fransham, Jackie van Beek, Rhys Darby
Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Screenplay: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Review published February 7, 2015
What We Do in the Shadows is a New Zealand-produced and shot mockumentary that purports to show the secret lives of a group of club-hopping vampires living as roommates in a large house in Wellington. Their lives, as it turns out, strive for mortal normalcy, but their very natures as vampires does mean that they must avoid sunlight, feast of human blood, and the usual tropes we'd expect. But in between that, they argue over roomie issues, such as whose turn it is to wash the mounting dishes and clean up the home's messes.
Things get a bit tricky when they turn another human into a vampire and take him in, Nick (Gonzalez-Macuer, Eagle vs. Shark), whose naivety leads to loose lips and a tricky, dangerous situation for them all.
Written and directed by co-stars Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark) and Jemaine Clement (Tongan Ninja), the film is chock-full of the kinds of deadpan reactions, awkward situations and off-the-wall humor that has been in fashion on such TV shows as "The Office" and Clement's own "Flight of the Conchords". It should also go down well for lovers of reality-show fare on basic cable channels, as this very much feels like a collection of scenes we're all-too-familiar with from any regular consumption of shows we catch on MTV, Bravo and TLC.
One example of its humor level: they fight while floating in mid-air, then 'poof', turn into bats, then fight some more. How about another?: They like to toy with their victims by claiming their 'pasghetti' is actually worms, lifted from the sight gag from The Lost Boys.
Though there's not shortage of vampire-related comedies, What We Do in the Shadows finds plenty of new and very funny wrinkles in the already "long in the tooth" subgenre that make it worthwhile. For such a loose-hanging delivery, one surprise is how much depth of props, old photographs and character history Waititi and Clement throw at us, with a rich mythology that is remarkable given the simple premise. It's modest budget not only allows for lots of fancy costumes and a plethora of small character roles, but the special effects that come into play are quite decent as well.
Though it is about blood-thirsty vampires, their veins pump from warm hearts, as it is a well-cast, good-natured romp that loves to catch you by surprise, never quite going straight for the obvious gags you'd gather from the premise. Fans of horror and comedies will likely unite around this one should it see the light of day in the darkened theater near you.
-- There are additional scenes during the end credits, and a stinger at the very end.
©2015 Vince Leo