Review: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014){0}

Some Interviews with Some Vampires

If you think spending a lifetime in Wellington, New Zealand might be boring, imagine what spending many lifetimes in such a remote place might be like. No wonder 379-year-old vampire Viago (Taika Waititi) is bored enough to invite a documentary crew (from the New Zealand Documentary Board, no less) into the flat he shares with fellow bloodsuckers, 862-year-old Vladislav (Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement), 183-year-old Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham), a decrepit creature over eigth thousand years old.

Under the protection of crucifixes and a solemn promise not to be harmed by the subjects of their documentary, the crew follows the vampire flatmates around – but only at night – in the months leading up to The Unholy Masquerade, a costumed ball where vampires, zombies, witches and other creatures of the night gather to drink, dance and show off. Along the way, they will discover how difficult it is to dress well when you have no reflection, the perils of accidentally hitting the main artery while feeding, why werewolves are better than “swear-wolves”, and why virgin blood tastes so much better than regular blood. “If you want to eat a sandwich,” reasons Vlad, “it just tastes better if no one has fucked it.”

It sounds like a cracking idea for a student film project, or perhaps for a Bedazzled-era comedy starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, although the joke might wear thin well before an hour and a half was up. In the hands of co-writer/directors Waititi and Clement, however, What We Do in the Shadows puts a silly grin on your face after about two minutes (earlier, if you find the creaky old New Zealand Documentary Board logo funny), and pretty much keeps it there for the next 85 minutes. You could pick holes in it, of course, but only a complete killjoy would ask why a documentary crew would go along with the murders that happen along the way – more ‘man bites man’ than Man Bites Dog; or why, if it’s verboten in vampire circles to broadcast the fact that you’re a vampire, the documentary exists in the first place.

Even if What We Do in the Shadows has fewer laugh-out-loud moments than one might expect, it’s one of the funniest comedies of the year – of any genre – and its special effects could put many a straight horror film in the shade.


David Hughes