For a classic movie creature that’s become something of a YA-punchline, vampires sure have done well for themselves in 2014. Jim Jarmusch filtered the existential quandaries of immortality through an aesthete’s lens in his terrific Only Lovers Left Alive, but those looking for something a little sunnier from their alternative vampire viewing should find plenty to enjoy in What We Do in the Shadows.
A faux-documentary from New Zealand, the comedy follows the undead goings-on of a trio of vampires living in Wellington. The co-writer/co-director pair of Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement (himself one half of Flight of the Conchords) aren’t reinventing the mockumentary genre with What We Do in the Shadows, or even going too deep with their chosen subject. A lot of the jokes are basically the first clever thing that comes to mind when you’re looking to make fun of vampire mythology.
What makes What We Do in the Shadows so frequently and uproariously funny is the charming menagerie of ghouls and humans at its disposal. The vamps, including Waititi as a fop from the 18th century and Clement as a knockoff Vlad the Impaler, may technically be monsters, but their lives are pathetically mundane. Arguing over roommate responsibilities is a fact of life whether you’re 20 or 200, and the supernatural community in Wellington is barely more esteemed or organized than your average fan club.
Shooting with a look modelled directly on TLC-esque reality show trash, every joke is deadpanned to perfection by the talented cast. Whether there’s blood spraying out of from a victim’s neck after a botched vein drain, or a gravity-defying tussle between flatmates, What We Do in the Shadows keeps a straight face, looking good when it needs to, and like a lot of cheesy fun when it doesn’t. Plenty of others have mined the idiosyncrasies of vampirism for laughs, but none have done so in a way that makes creatures of the night this hilariously human.
From a desiccated husk of a genre rises one of the year's funniest films in What We Do in the Shadows