By: Tara Bennett
Due to films such as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Only Lovers Left Alive, there is still hope for good vampire cinema. The latest installment in the new wave of vamp flicks is What We Do In The Shadows, a New Zealand mockumentary horror comedy film about a group of vampires who live together in Wellington. Directed and written by Taika Waititi (Boy) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords), who also star in the film, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014 and has been making waves on the festival circuit ever since. At the 2015 LIFF, it received the Audience Award for Best Film and sold out both nights it showed at Perkins Rowe Cinemark. And there’s good reason why. Sh*t’s funny, yo.
The story follows a documentary crew, armed with crucifixes and guarantees of safety, as they examine the daily lives of four vampires living together as flat mates, who prove that though undead, they still encounter everyday problems such as chore duty (those bloody glasses have been in the sinks for weeks), and what to wear to the club (a lack of reflections relies on lackluster sketches). Our heroes include Viago, an 18th century dandy, who wakes up promptly at 6 p.m. and lays down newspaper before biting his victims. Along with him are his housemates Vlad, a perverted playboy who resembles a young Gary Oldman from Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Deacon, the youngest of the house at 183, who would rather go out than clean; and Petyr, an 8,000 year old vampire that resembles Nosferatu in every way possible. After they bite hipster Nick, the vampires have to deal with a newborn vampire who makes their afterlife miserable. Their squabbles and shenanigans are all captured on film, leading up to the event of the year: The Unholy Masquerade.
Truthfully, this mockumentary proves to be the comedy of the year with a well-balanced mix of humor for all tastes from the raunchy to the rude. Fans of The Office and Parks and Recreation will recognize the classic awkward pauses when the camera keeps rolling after someone has said something stupid or embarrassing. The true comedy though is formed from the clash of personalities, which is the charm of this movie. Though they irritate one another, they still face real everyday problems, and thus they also have each other’s backs. In turn it makes the audience care about their stories, and laugh when inevitable puns and vampire tropes come into play (you can’t help but find the Lost Boy joke funny). Interestingly enough, the Bella Swan figure of the movie is in the character of Stu, a human companion of Nick’s. Stu helps the vampire clan adjust to modern life, such as learning how to Google virgins on the Internet, and a bromance results in turn, thus earning Stu the vampires’ loyalty.
Another impressive feat in this film is the special effects involved. For its budget, the film’s effects are pretty neat, whether it be the vampires changing into bats, or the arterial sprays of victims’ blood. Horror fans will delight in some of the more gruesome scenes though their execution borders on the absurd, making it easy to watch for those who can’t handle films like Saw or Hostel.
A brilliant spoof of vampire films and mockumentaries in a time where there are plenty of both. However, this film proves that, together, both is good.