Remember when I said I don’t really enjoy comedies back on my Shaun of the Dead post except for a few rare exceptions? I found another rare exception in the 2014 mockumentary about vampires from Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement who both wrote and directed this clever and delightful film, What We Do in the Shadows.
After a somewhat disappointing experience with Shaun of the Dead, I was skeptical about watching another comedy this year that I hadn’t already seen previously, but I cannot overstate just how much I loved watching What We Do in the Shadows. From those first few moments where we meet Viago (Taika Waititi) and he rises out of his coffin before nervously checking to make sure it truly is night time to the end sequence with werewolves and vampires under one roof, I was delighted at every turn.
This barely 90-minute film is a truly unique film and I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. That may be due to the fact that of the 125 hours of footage that was shot, most of it was improvised. The story was heavily scripted but the actual dialogue in the scenes? That’s all the host of actors bringing the colorful character to life from Taika and Jemaine’s imagination.
The film explores what it’s like for a household of vampires in the modern day and the ways they resolve everyday problems like whose turn it is to clean the dishes, hitting up the best nightclubs in town, or how to keep the flat clean. It’s not your typical vampire fare but that’s what makes it so fun. Each of the vampires hearkens back to another legendary bloodsucker you’ve encountered before. Petyr (Ben Bransham) is the most easily recognizable with his pale white skin, pointed ears and frighteningly long teeth we see in Nosferatu. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is self-proclaimed as “Vladislav the Poker” which is a clear reference to a rumored vampire, Vlad the Impaler though he also a certain Dracula-like quality to him. Deacon (Jonny Brugh) is a rebellious vampire you might see in a film like The Lost Boys and finally, we have the most delightful character — Viago. Viago has an aristocratic charm about him that brings to mind Anne Rice’s beloved Lestat. The way they interact with one another is so engaging and often times hilarious.
Their appearance and actions though are not the only callbacks to the vampires of old (pre-Twilight, I mean). They follow many of the rules from lore — they cannot go into the sunlight or they will catch fire, they cannot touch pure silver, or enter a building without being invited in. Each of these hurdles though is met with an oftentimes hilarious resolution. Some of my favorite moments include the drawings they do of each other to display what their outfits look like since they have no reflections, the procession of shame to punish Nick for accidentally leading a vampire hunter back to the flat, or Viago’s best attempt at keeping his lounge free of blood but nicks the main artery of his victim and sends of geyser of blood into the room.
It’s a really clever film and so much fun to watch. I can’t sing its praises enough. I’ve already watched it twice and am looking forward to watching it regularly perhaps just as a little pick me up; it’s so endearing! I love these characters every minute of the film, especially Viago. What a treat this season to be introduced to one of my new favorite films!