“I go for a look which I call dead but delicious.”
Just when you thought there couldn’t be another fresh spin out of the overplayed vampire genre, there comes along a small New Zealand mockumentary that manages to feel original and hilarious at the same time. A parody of vampire movies isn’t simple to make, just ask the directors of Vampire Sucks, but in What We Do in the Shadows Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi manage to direct a funny and engaging film about vampires. Clement and Waititi are known for the TV series Flight of the Conchords which Clement has starred in and helped create, while Waititi has directed a couple of episodes. These New Zealand directors also write and star in this film which was mostly improvised (they had over 120 hours of footage which was later edited to under 85 minutes). This is perhaps one of the funniest mockumentaries I’ve seen since Borat and many have compared it to This is Spinal Tap (but I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t seen it yet). It is very witty and it plays around many of the vampire genre conventions, but it does so with a fantastic sense of humor giving each one of the vampires a distinct personality. It also centers on the day to day domestic life these vampires lead as they live together in a flat and are given specific chores in the home. So in a way it almost plays out as a sort of spoof of The Real World as well considering they have arguments about someone not doing the dishes, or are always giving each other advice as to what to wear for the night, or even making sure they clean up the mess they leave behind from their victims. It’s about friendship and learning to live with each other. I was a huge fan of Only Lovers Left Alive which was another engaging vampire film that took a unique spin on the genre, but this is much lighter and is played entirely for laughs. I had a great time and laughed throughout the film.
One of the best things about this vampire mockumentary is that they decided to have these four vampires living together in a flat despite being completely different from each other and coming from different backgrounds. There is Viago (Taika Waititi) who is over 300 years old and who came to New Zealand to pursue a love interest, Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) who was once a powerful vampire from the Middle Ages who lost most of his powers to someone he calls the Beast, Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) who is the youngest of the group and who refuses to wash the dishes saying that vampires shouldn’t have to, and then there is Petyr (Ben Fransham), a vampire over 8000 years old that looks like Nosferatu. The film centers on these vampires following their every day routines while they are being filmed by a documentary crew. There are several instances where they talk to the camera explaining who they are. While we follow these characters they run in to some other creatures like werewolves, zombies, and even witches, which makes for some funny scenes with quotable lines. Cori Gonzalez-Macuer and Stuart Rutherford also play supporting roles in this film but I don’t want to get into too much detail because it is more fun if you simply enjoy the wackiness of everything unfolding before the screen.
Mockumentaries and vampire films aren’t perhaps something most audiences would be interested in considering they have been overdone in recent years, but the combination of these two genres make for a very entertaining and funny movie. What could’ve very easily been a one punch joke and lost most of its steam during the first 10 minutes ends up stretching out very well and the jokes continue to feel fresh and inventive. In other hands this could’ve simply worked as a short film, but Waititi and Clement manage to keep the humor coming throughout the entire 80 minutes. It is a perfectly executed film with many memorable scenes. There is even a scene that seems to be parodying the hall way scene in Inception so there are a lot of different funny things going on in this movie which mostly involve parodying vampire genre conventions.