Review: ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (A Fang-in-Cheek Mock Doc)

Friends. Flatmates. Vampires.

When a New Zealand film crew is hired to document the activities of four flatmates, their subjects turn out to be bloodsuckers! With each documentarian promised safety and allowed to wear a crucifix for protection, they follow the nightly vampiric activities of Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonny Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham), all leading up to an annual ball for supernatural creatures residing in the area. Complicating their lives is Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a newly turned vampire having trouble letting go of human life, and his human friend Stu (Stu Rutherford), who they much prefer over Nick (and have made a house rule not to eat). What new and amazing things will these strange creatures of the night allow mere mortals to learn from them?

Are vampires are the gift that keeps on giving? Every time someone declares the bloodsucking undead tired and passé, another take on the classic monster pops out of the coffin, but the best work seems to come from long-time fans. This particular labor of love is brought to you by the creators of “Flight of the Conchords,” and if the original short film is any indication (and how young the cast looked) they’ve been thinking about this for a VERY long time. All the tropes are here: no reflections, shapeshifting, blood drinking, hypnosis, sunlight, secret rules, you name it. Sadly, it isn’t all about vampires, but the main characters enjoy their share of picking on other supernatural creatures like werewolves. The hilarity is organic; the players treat the genre with all due respect while allowing the ridiculousness of the characters to shine through. Isn’t it about time someone gave vampires the Shaun of the Dead treatment?

A run-and-gun shooting style is used by the filmmakers to enhance the films believable practical effects instead of masking a low budget. Genre fans will enjoy comparing the original short film (included on the Blu-ray) with how a professional crew enhanced the vampire effects from Halloween store makeup to HD image quality; it really does make all the difference. Even their house is a character, from the individual rooms and closets to Petyr’s basement “crypt.” There aren’t any villains or grand schemes going on here, just the night-to-night existence of bloodsuckers making their way in the world, but the less you know going in, the more enjoyable it will be. With vampires as the subject, however, expect blood…lots and lots of blood.

The film didn’t get a wide release in the United States but has received something of a worldwide cult following for its effort; there’s even talk now of a rumored sequel, possibly featuring the werewolves from the first film (you’ll see why they deserve one). Like Galaxy Quest for bloodsuckers, this is a film that can be enjoyed by both fans of the genre and those who wish they’d just stake it all and be done with it. Be sure to watch the movie until the very end for a special message from the guys, and remember: friends don’t interrupt friends performing an erotic dance for friends.

(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)


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