From Kiwi comedians (as well as writers, directors, performers, etc.) Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, “What We Do In The Shadows” is a mockumentary in the same vein as the great Christopher Guest films “Best in Show” and “For Your Consideration,” films that follow around a very specific group of people and explores their weirdness, especially in comparison to the rest of “normal” society. But instead of dog owners or bad actors, this is a movie about centuries-old vampires, who also happen to be flatmates.
“What We Do In The Shadows” centers on Viago, Vladislav (the Poker), Deacon and Petyr, who all share a flat together in Wellington, New Zealand. Most of the movie is them hanging out and building up to the masquerade ball held every year for undead folks like them, zombies and witches (though are witches really undead? Anyway…), but before we get there, it really is more like a slice of life kind of thing, what do these guys do with their time, what are they thinking, how they do coexist, and so on. So we get scenes like the one in which three of the flatmates sit together to go over the rules of the flat again, as one of them has been neglecting their chores, and obviously the humor of this kind of scene comes from the fact that they are having a very basic, standard argument among people who live together, just with the exception that they are vampires, so an argument could devolve into them flying in the air and hissing at each other.
This movie also gets into their interactions with the real world and the non-vampires that live in it. So we get to see them figure their way around problems like trying to go out drinking at bars (at night obviously) but needing to find a bar in which they are actually invited inside, because of that whole thing with vampires needing to be invited in. And they have some fun with other vampire tropes – for example, how do vampires dress themselves if they can’t see their reflections in mirrors? Though, if the vampires can’t be seen in mirrors, shouldn’t they at least see their floating clothing? Is the clothing vampiric as well?
And they have to deal with non-vampires, like pesky humans, though they do take advantage of some of them. For example, there is Jackie, who agrees to be the servant for the vampires and for Deacon in particular, all in exchange for the chance to be a vampire herself and to live forever. And then they show how these vampires take different approaches to achieving the same goal – finding a human to kill and consume, which sometimes can go hilariously wrong, especially when a main vein gets nicked, which tends to happen it seems. And then there are the werewolves, who get introduced in a scene that seems like it would be a throwaway gag, but then sneakily the werewolves become a kind of major plot point and an opportunity to actually put a small bit of an emotional arc into the end of this movie, keeping the movie from being nothing but a series of scenes with no connection.
Actually, between the werewolves and the character of Nick, who is a recently-turned vampire that the other guys are slow to accept, there IS something of a plot to this movie, though it is kind of loose and haphazard. But that’s not a deal breaker because of the style of this movie, with the whole fake documentary thing, it is actually okay for the movie to start and slowly find its “purpose” storywise, so to speak, because it sneaks up on you and before you know it, the movie is over and the characters have actually grown and changed and you’re like “oh shit, there was stuff happening between the laughs.”
And there are certainly laughs. This is a funny movie, with jokes that range from amusing to brilliant, and obviously the more one knows about vampire lore and vampire movies, the more enjoyment there is to be gained from this film. Also, since it DOES deal with vampires, there are a few scenes that get quite bloody, so if a little bit of gore in your comedy ain’t your thing, then beware.