Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Rhys Darby, Jonathan Brugh, Stu Rutherford
Screenplay: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
86 mins. Rated R for bloody violent content, some sexual material and language.
We’ve talked previously about the difficulties in satire in the world of horror, but what about the Mockumentary subgenre? Naturally, it’s even tougher but it isn’t attempted all that often. So that’s why I was hesitant about What We Do in the Shadows, from Directors/Screenwriters/Stars Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. That hesitation was clearly unwarranted.
What We Do in the Shadows chronicles the lives/undeaths of four vampires living in a flat together in Wellington. Vladislav (Clement) is similar to Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula. Viago (Waititi) is more like Louis from Interview With a Vampire. Then there’s Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Eagle vs. Shark) who is a mix of Edward Cullen and Bill Compton. Lastly, we have Petyr, an 8,000-year-old creature who has aged to resemble something like Count Orlok from Nosferatu. The documentary crew follows the vamps around, showing the trials and lifestyles of the undead in detail, from their ongoing war with the werewolves to their annual masquerade ball.
What We Do in the Shadows is a perfect example of great storytelling, great comedy, and great respect to the source genre. Everything here was done with incredible care, starting with the screenplay. Clement and Waititi wrote a lengthy script and then allowed everyone the chance to improv. Then, after filming over 120 hours of footage, they assembled three cuts of the film: one focused on story, one on jokes, and then a combination of the two. Great care becomes a great film.
It lulls a bit in the third act, but What We Do in the Shadows takes pride in showing how tough the vamps have it in small daily routines like building a relationship with your familiar or avoiding pesky vampire hunters.
What We Do in the Shadows is one of the most fun times I’ve had watching a film, and I hope you take the time to track it down. I can’t see a person not enjoying its unique charm, its sharp writing and wit, and its inherent heart.
-Kyle A. Goethe