WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS. (2014) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY JEMAINE CLEMENT AND TAIKA WAITITI. STARRING JEMAINE CLEMENT, TAIKA WAITITI, JONATHAN BRUGH, BEN FRANSHAM AND JACKIE VAN BEEK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I always wince a bit when someone comes at me with a ‘horror comedy,’ as usually I prefer my horror straight, and scary. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when, being made to watch this one with the assurances that it was very funny, I did indeed find it to be very funny, but also warm, witty, and a loving tribute to the vampire genre by a bunch of guys who obviously loved and respected their subject.
It’s a ‘mockumentary,’ along the lines of SPINAL TAP (which parodies the rock music business) and BEST IN SHOW (a spoof on American dog shows), and features four vampires from modern-day Wellington (the capital of New Zealand), sharing a house and being followed around by a camera crew so that viewers can get a sense of the vampires’ lives, or states of un-death, if that’s a better description of their existence.
Viago, a sort of dandy vampire dressed in the extravagantly frilly, flouncy style of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, is probably the most conscientious of the four ‘house-mates’ and, in fact, he opens the film by calling a house meeting on the subject of Who Hasn’t Been Pulling Their Weight Around The Flat.
Transgressions include leaving a load of dirty, blood-soaked washing-up in the sink, not putting down newspaper to collect blood splashes when killing and eating a victim on the house couch, and generally just leaving a bloody mess everywhere around the place for other house-mates to clean up.
Deacon, a sexy-cool (as he likes to think), rather gypsyish-looking younger vampire, who likes to knit and to perform ‘erotic’ dances for the amusement of his fellow house-mates, is generally found to be the main offender when it comes to the washing-up. With muttered claims that this is all nothing but ‘bullshit,’ he grudgingly gets to work with the old Fairy Liquid and the rubber gloves.
Vladislav the Poker (clearly a riff on Vlad the Impaler) is a flamboyant, passionate and powerful vampire who was once a tyrant in his earlier life. He is obsessed by a former opponent of terrifying proportions he calls ‘the Beast,’ the only opponent to have ever bested him.
The actor who plays Vlad (Jemaine Clement, one half of successful comedy duo Flight of the Conchords) says he based his performance on Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula, even down to the two weird lumps of hair…
Petyr, the fourth house-mate, is a non-talking, ferocious-looking 8,000-year-old vampire who lives, Nosferatu-style, in the dark, damp basement of the shared house.
In appearance, he’s a cross between Murnau’s Count Orlok and Reggie Nalder’s stunningly scary Kurt Barlow in the television adaptation of Stephen King’s most frightening book, SALEM’S LOT.
Nick is a young man who joins the group and whom Petyr bites and vampirises, and there’s great fun then as Nick goes around telling all and sundry that he’s a vampire now and has cool powers, such as being able to fly and turn into a bat, and such.
The group have grave misgivings about Nick’s tendency to be a big-mouth and flap his gums. It might attract the attentions of a vampire-hunter, for one thing, which could have grave ramifications for the health and safety of the group as a whole.
The scene in which Viago, Vladislav and Deacon tell Nick that he’s banned from the house ‘indefinitely,’ but that his mild-mannered-to-the-point-of-deadpan computer geek friend Stu is still welcome to drop by any time, is very funny indeed.
We follow the lads around as they try to get ‘invited’ into Wellington’s various night-spots in order to trawl for possible victims (a vampire can’t go anywhere he’s not invited, remember?), and exchange insults with the local band of werewolves, before later becoming more pally with them.
They hypnotise the police into not seeing the corpses and signs of human carnage clearly dotted round their place of residence when a neighbour complains of the constant screaming coming from their house, and they also get invited to this year’s Unholy Masquerade of vampires, zombies and witches, at which the guest of honour is to be Vladislav’s Number One enemy and nemesis, the Beast. Stand by for scenes of bloody confrontation and recrimination…
Vampire films/television shows referenced or quoted directly in the movie include Gary Oldman’s DRACULA, BLADE, TWILIGHT, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, THE LOST BOYS and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. I think THE HUNGER was in there a little bit too, in Nick’s ‘turning’ and Vlad’s David Bowie-style ageing when he becomes unwell while thinking too much about the Beast.
I could be mistaken, but I don’t think I caught any references to Hammer Horror in the mockumentary, and Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula in seven films for the Hammer film production company.
Did the lads behind the film not catch any repeats of these fantastic films when they were growing up? Oh well. Maybe the omission was a pure accident, but I would love to have seen some reference to Hammer’s Dracula in there somewhere.
Anyway, this is overall a pretty funny film which you’ll certainly enjoy watching even once. The characters are all immensely likeable, especially when they’re being dozey twats, and you get kind of a nice, warm fuzzy feeling when you’re watching it, stemming from the obvious affection in which the writer-actors hold the genre they’re parodying. Enjoy it. It’s good, clean bloody fun…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.