Film Fest review: What We Do in the Shadows


From a coffin emerges a pale hand, groping in the dark to silence an alarm clock. So be­gins What We Do in the Shadows, a 2014 hor­ror-comedy directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.

The mockumentary-style film follows four undead housemates in New Zealand. Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) are vampires ranging from 183 to 8,000 years old. The documentary crew, adorned with crucifixes, records daily life in the house leading up to an all-monster event called The Unholy Masquerade.

The quartet has typical “roomie” prob­lems. The orderly Viago struggles to make his roommates clean up discarded skeletons, wash sinks full of bloody dishes, put towels down before devouring a human or sweep the floor with something other than a body. Even meals prove to be complicated. Isn’t it the worst when someone drains a victim who was clearly meant for another housemate?

When Petyr transforms an intended victim, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), the dynamic of the group is threatened. They are introduced to Nick’s best friend and human, Stu (Stu­art Rutherford). Of course, having a human around such a group proves to be unwise.

The brilliance of What We Do in the Shadows is two-fold. It spoofs both vampire stories and reality genres at once. Too often, paro­dies try to force laughs and fall flat. Rather than mocking particular scenes of bloodsuck­ing romance, the film trusts the conflict of its characters and environment to carry the show. It works, all without running short on material.

Watching the vampires navigate modern nightlife is nothing short of hilarious. They take public transit in clothes centuries old. In traditional vampire fashion, they must be invited into dance clubs so they don’t burst into flame.

Yes, the film mentions Twilight by name. It even boasts a pack of reluctant werewolves helmed by Anton (Rhys Darby).

To deem this film “horror” is a bit mis­leading. Never is there a moment that scares more than it delights. The bloodiest scenes prove to be more awkward than frightening. Humour permeates every scene without run­ning out of steam by the final credits.

The style of comedy may not be universal. From the makers of television series Flight of the Concords, What We Do in the Shadows ap­peals to a particular brand of comedy. Thank­fully, the appeal of the film is broadened by the overlapping genres. Its humour blends the dark, the outrageous and the goofy.

For a fresh comedy with more bite than anything else, take a look at What We Do in the Shadows.