What We Do in the Shadows
Horror comedy is a notoriously difficult genre to master. For every Shaun of the Dead, Scream or Zombieland, there are a dozen low-budget, low-quality knockoffs lying in bargain bins across the country, unwatched and unremembered. It’s testament, then, to Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s skill as filmmakers that their relentlessly silly vampire farce What We Do in the Shadows manages to expertly combine these two genres, while wringing new laughs from their tired, over-familiar conventions.
Exploring similar existential themes to Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, the film follows four vampire housemates in Wellington, New Zealand as they are filmed by a documentary crew in the run-up to the most important event in the undead’s social calendar: the Unholy Masquerade Ball. When Petyr (Ben Fransham), the oldest and most monstrous of the four, turns obnoxious outsider Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) into a vampire, all of the housemates’ bloodthirsty routines, from throwing grotesque dinner parties to cruising low-rent nightclubs for victims, are disrupted. As Nick struggles to adapt to the vampire lifestyle, his lingering humanity begins to rub off on the others and his mild-mannered best friend Stu (Stu Rutherford) becomes a mother hen figure in their dysfunctional household.
What We Do in the Shadows is a case of style over substance, but the style is so impressive, and the direction so full of bravura, that the viewer is charmed into submission. Waititi and Clement’s imaginative staging and clever use of CGI breathe new life into old jokes (the idea of vampires being unable to groom themselves is older than Bela Lugosi), and cute visual gags come thick and fast throughout the film’s brisk 85-minute running time, ensuring that none of the inventive set pieces ever outstay their welcome.
The entirely improvised dialogue is given wit and gravitas by the uniformly excellent cast and the plot, while slight, has enough twists and turns to keep viewers invested in the colourful characters’ journeys. Every frame is imbued with the filmmakers’ infectious enthusiasm for the project, and this generates enough goodwill to forgive derivative aspects of both the narrative and the mockumentary style itself. Ultimately, the film is a fun and frothy work from two very talented writer/directors and a brilliant supporting cast.
What We Do in the Shadows is released nationwide on 21st November 2014.
Watch the trailer for What We Do in the Shadows here: