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What We Do in the Shadows - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
What We Do in the Shadows
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B
Special Effects: B-

Vampires, like zombies, are now so overdone that they're being crossed over into sub-subgenres. Not only is What We Do in the Shadows a comedy, but it's a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary. The conceit is that a film crew has been granted exclusive and unprecedented access to a group of vampire flatmates in Wellington, New Zealand, as they gear up for the annual "Unholy Masquerade Ball."

It should be noted that vampires are not the only supernatural beings in this film. The film crew also encounters a pack of werewolves, and even some zombies attend the Unholy Masquerade Ball. The vampires, morons that they are, have brought their human friend Stu to the party, and there ensues an argument over whether or not the attendees should eat him.

If anything saves this movie, it's the fact that it was made by New Zealanders, using New Zealanders, and it's about New Zealanders and it was filmed in New Zealand -- incidentally, by one of the guys from Flight of the Conchords. Although to clarify, it could have been just as good (or maybe even better) from plenty of other countries outside the U.S. If this movie had been finances entirely in the U.S., even as an indie film, this is the kind of high concept that would have no chance. It would almost certainly have fallen flat.

But co-directors and co-writers Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who also play vampire flatmates Vladislav and Viago, respectively, truly put a unique perspective on the idea. It's not just that these vampires are buffoons (and so are the weirdly goody-two-shoes werewolves they encounter, who say things like, "We're werewolves, not swear-wolves!"), but that they are singular buffoons. This is where most of the comedy comes from, how clueless these guys are in the modern age, with their anachronistic behaviors and mismatched clothing from long-gone eras.

Viago is referred to as a "dandy" when the others complain to the film crew about what a nag he is about house work. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is tasked with doing the dishes but he hasn't done them in five hundred years. Viago accidentally hits a main artery on one of his victims and mops up the blood with a roll of paper towels.

The somewhat amazing thing about What We Do in the Shadows is that none of it truly falls flat, which a jaded movie-goer at a comedy about vampires would expect. To be sure, some of the gags work better than others, and even at a slight 86 minutes, the editing could have benefitted from some slight tightening up. The real issue is that this is a concept that doesn't lend itself to feature length, and this could have been a relentlessly hysterical hour on, say, HBO. But for the movie theatre, they have to flesh it out. A potential victim gets turned into a new vampire, really as a way of keeping our attention to a story with "surprising" turns.

But although the story hints at tedium, it never quite crosses that line, and it has plenty of good laughs to offer. What We Do in the Shadows is not the most essential viewing in the local multiplex, but neither is it a waste of time. It's more than adequate amusement. It even takes some weirdly dark turns, particularly with the oldest vampire flatmate, Petyr (Ben Fransham, with the most elaborate makeup, clearly meant as allusion to Nosferatu). As one might expect, the fictional crew behind the documentary cameras don't exactly emerge unscathed either.

If nothing else, thanks to this particular mashup of genres, this is unlike any other vampire movie you've ever seen, or any other comedy, or any other vampire comedy for that matter. This is a rare case of multiple concepts being put into a blender with a surprisingly pleasant, if semi-zanily twisted, result.


Overall: B
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