Recommended Viewing Situation:

Right after you have finished performing a very sensual dance for all your friends.

Running Time: 86 Minutes.

Format: Digital Film, shot on a RED Epic.

Director: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.

Writer: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.

Cinematographer: Richard Bluck and D.J. Stipsen.

Awards: Fangoria Chainsaw Award (2016) and more.

 

This is one of the few vampire films that everyone needs to watch. What We Do In The Shadows (2014) is a trim mockumentary comedy/horror, written and directed by the comic geniuses that brought you Flight Of The Concords (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi). The film follows the everyday trials and tribulations of four aged vampires flat sharing in Wellington, New Zealand. Hilarity ensues when Petyr (Ben Fransham), Vlad (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonny Brugh) and Viago (Taika Waititi) must make room for an only recently turned fifth addition to the vampire house, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer).

Not necessarily the darkest comedy around, as its subject matter might suggest, the film is fast paced, tongue in cheek and predominately gag heavy. With impeccable timing and charming New Zealand comedic earnest, each of the main cast highlights their talents as actors rather than mere vessels for jokes. That is not to say that the film isn’t macabre at times, there are neck-bitingly awkward faux pas and gruesome high jinx dotted all over, and the cast equally own these moments too. Viago’s Skype call with a long forgotten ‘familiar’ is a particularly bleak scene to behold as an audience. Usually, mockumentaries in the horror genre lose their nerve and peter out in a dénouement of plot holes and budgetary considerations (see REC 2 2009 and Apollo 18 2011). In the mockumentary horror-comedy genre, Man Bites Dog (1992) is still the crème of this rather niche brand of filmmaking. What We Do In The Shadows is a testament to the directorial efforts of Waititi and Clement, as they mix both the genres and get away with it, albeit without too many risks. Of course, this cinematic endeavour would be impossible if it wasn’t for the solid efforts of cinematographers Richard Bluck (2nd unit on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012) and D.J. Stipsen (2nd unit on White Lies 2013).

Casting an eye back to Clement and Waititi’s Oscar nominated short film, Two Cars, One Night in 2005, the heartfelt sense of innocence and romance is never quite removed from this piece. Real human feelings, motives and interactions are at the heart of the film and certainly its comedy. The quirky love interests of Viago and Vlad, ironically, humanise and add a much-needed depth to what could be misunderstood as just simply comedians playing ‘quirky’ vampires. The film’s ability to create and follow through with the world it defines is refreshing. Much akin to their work on Flight of the Concords, this kind of awkward humour, the spaces in-between the everyday that pervade human interaction, does not feel contrived, inane or lost in the shadows.

-Matthew Iredale