Directed by: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi | 86 minutes | comedy | Actors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford, Ben Fransham, Jackie van Beek, Elena Stejko, Jason Hoyte, Karen O’Leary, Mike Minogue, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Ian Harcourt, Ethel Robinson, Brad Harding, Isaac Heron, Yvette Parsons, Madeleine Sami, Aaron Jackson
What We Do in the Shadows, a mockumentary about the everyday, middle-class life of a couple of cohabiting vampires in New Zealand, is one of the biggest – and best – surprises of the year. It’s a film that starts out interesting but a bit bland, and gradually becomes more and more irresistible, until you can’t do anything but give in. Like a vampire who slowly stalks you, hypnotizes you, then sinks his teeth into your neck.
In the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Viago, a 379-year-old dandy. He is sound asleep in his coffin, but is about to be awakened by his digital alarm clock, which goes off at 6 pm. He pushes open his lid, puts his arms straight up, and “hinges” with straight legs as he looks into the camera and smiles. Almost proud, as if it were some magic trick he just learned. Then, when he introduces himself with a bold German accent and keeps smiling so childish and effeminate the whole time, it looks like the comedy is going to be very bland and obvious. Or stay.
Fortunately, this is not so bad. In fact, the accumulation of jokes and the collection of colorful, increasingly interesting characters make What We Do in the Shadows an extremely infectious horror comedy. The makers know a lot to do with, on the one hand, the fish-out-of-the-water concept, with vampires living for centuries who have to survive in a modern culture, and on the other hand, the joke that vampires have (roughly) the same homely, have banal problems like you and me. So we see vampires who, in our appearance-minded culture, struggle to show their best as they don’t have a mirror image. So the flatmates make quick, totally unlike drawings or paintings to replace each other. It is therefore very convenient for a technologically skilled person to come into their midst and introduce them to digital cameras, with which they can finally get a good look at themselves. The internet is also a revelation: now they can safely watch (videos of) sunsets and it is suddenly very easy to find a virgin.
They also argue about who should do the dishes, and that it’s okay for some to take people home to kill, but just put some newspapers on the floor for the blood. And when an argument arises, they ascend a meter and blow at each other like a bunch of cats in heat, and then go back to the order of the day (knitting, for example).
There is actually, in addition to the occasional faintness, too much fun to mention. The classic battle between vampires and werewolves passes here in a dryly funny way. When our vampire friends come across a gang of werewolves (just in human form), one of the vampires, for example, throws a stick and a werewolf instinctively chases it. Very comical is also the part where a bunch of agents come to the door while the vampires are just involved in a (literally) flying fight, and there is a corpse of a vampire slayer in the basement. Viago has hypnotized them so they won’t see alarming things, but he’s not sure how long the hypnosis will last. So when they get to the basement and examine the body, all they notice is that that heavy stone on his chest must hurt, and it will be a big hangover. But then one pauses: “Hey, what’s that ?!” (exciting music) “You don’t have a smoke detector. We recommend installing one. That is very safe. ”
The makers even manage to generate feelings of sympathy and warmth for some characters, who also undergo character development to a certain extent. You cannot call it a deeply elaborated drama, but it makes the film just that little bit more memorable and charming. And it offers an extra reason, in addition to the many comedic moments, to watch the film again. Like a renewed meeting with a bunch of (very) old friends. Very special friends, of course.