What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

What We Do In The Shadows, 2014; directed by Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi; starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

This shouldn’t work.  Written on paper, verbally expressed, the premise of What We Do In The Shadows sounds, well, horrible.   4 vampires are flat mates in Wellington, New Zealand.  Cameras are following them around and making a documentary on this peculiar “sub culture.”   The whole film is in the style so common to us all today – the reality TV exposé on eager subjects who are maybe not quite making the impressions they think they are.  It sounds like it could be nothing but awful.  Hipster Vampires comes to mind.  And all those terrible parody movies – Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Date Movie – have really set the parody and the satire back.  But then this film was made many of the folks responsible for Flight of the Conchords.

Leave it to a couple of kiwis to pull this off well.   A dark comedy, this effectively imagines the awkwardness of 4 vampires, ages ranging from 189 to over 8,000 years old, attempting to fit into society.  And it manages to mix many of the known vampire tropes (in addition to problems with crosses and sunlight, the vampires cannot enter anywhere that is not already open to them without an invitation to enter) with modern society conflicts in knee slapping ways.  But don’t worry, there’s plenty of blood, just enough gore, and even a rivalry with a pack of werewolves.  The werewolves are led by an “alpha” who, for some unknown reason, abhors curse words.  So they are often heard saying “we’re werewolves, not swear wolves.”

The special effects are employed judiciously but effectively – not unlike how Michel Gondry employed them in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.   And as was mentioned before, there is plenty of blood.  Early on there is a mishap where Viago, the hyperactive, posi neat freak of the group, after carefully placing newspapers and towels around his victim, accidentally severs her carotid artery, which causes a huge mess and renders all his precautions useless.

While the movie is a bit unevenly paced and never really builds too much to its featured event – the unholy masquerade ball – it’s pretty funny through out its running time.  And it’s clever humor that helps throw us off just enough so that when something vicious happens – this is the undead after all – it can make one jump.

Overall What We Do In The Shadows plays like a cousin to a Christopher Guest movie (Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman) mixed a little bit with the early 90s Belgian documentary parody Man Bites Dog, where a documentary crew follows a petty thief and murderer and documents him and his crimes.  It’s definitely something you can sink your teeth into.

 

Dr. Vorhees