When the credits start and “New Zealand Documentary Board” rolled across the screen my giggles began. They didn’t end until the film did. What We Do in the Shadows is a humorous, and occasionally bloody, faux documentary on the lives of four vampires living together in Auckland, New Zealand. For fans of The Almighty Johnsons, the thought of supernatural beings in Auckland might not be that far of a stretch, but for the American crowd New Zealand seems like the last place vampires would choose to migrate to. The film opens with Viago (Taika Waititi), a dandy-like vampire who came to New Zealand to follow his one true love. Sure, she married another man after his coffin was lost in transit, but that doesn’t stop him from keeping high spirits and checking in on her at the nursing home. Vladsilav (Jemaine Clement) is a Vlad the Impaler-like figure with sex appeal (sort of) who is embroiled in a semi-eternal battle with his arch-nemesis, The Beast. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the ‘cool’ guy of the apartment and seems to never be able to keep the bloody dishes clean. Deep in the basement dwells Petyr (Ben Fransham), the Nosferatu edition of the vampire house. The four allow a documentary crew into the home to follow them in their nightly lives and to capture their interactions with each other. Deacon gets most of his work done with the help of his familiar, Jackie (Jackie Van Beek). House meetings and arguments over dirty dishes quickly fade away, however after a mishap with a victim named Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) loses his human life at a dinner party, but doesn’t quite leave this mortal coil. Nick’s lack of discretion about his new vampire state brings the group into conflict with a local vampire hunter, werewolves and introduces them to the human, Stu.
What We Do In The Shadows is one of those rare films, such as Sean of the Dead, that manages to keep you laughing even as blood is spurting out of the neck of a victim. In one particular scene, Viago argues with the other vampires about putting towels down before chomping down on their victims in order to protect his antiques. This is followed up by he in turn learning that sometimes putting a towel down doesn’t spare the antique furniture from a particularly big blood spurt. Nick using his new found nature in a bar to pick up women in hilarious, especially when he keeps telling people he is “just like Twilight.” Fans of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords will immediately recognize Vladsilav as Jemaine Clement, but he does a wonderful job of distancing himself from his previous role and instead putting himself in the role of a self-imposed vampire sex symbol.
There are three unsung heroes of What We Do in the Shadows. The first is the human, Stu (Stuart Rutherford). After coming along with Nick, he quickly gains status in the house as a cool guy who must be inexplicably allowed despite the rules of the supernatural and human interaction. Stu constantly faces the risk of being chomped down on. Armed with only his work as a systems analyst and with five vampires to back him up, Stu becomes nearly indispensable to the group. Then we have Jackie. Jackie, the familiar, has been promised eternal life by Deacon but he has managed to never quite deliver. Like a woman long promised an engagement ring, Jackie reminds Deacon of his promise on a frequent basis while still balancing her life as a mother, wife and servant of the damned. When she gives a brief monologue to the camera about how Nick became a vampire but she was given the brush off, her descriptions are hysterical. Finally, we have Anton (Rhys Darby), the Alpha of the local werewolf pack, and his intentional work to keep his group modest and decent. They wear trackpants for easy and modest transformations while often chanting that they are “werewolves not swearwolves.”
What We Do In The Shadows is currently only slated for a short and limited engagement in the United States. This is utterly heartbreaking as the film is brilliant. However, if you’re interested in helping to get the film into more theaters (and get some swag in the process) they are running a Kickstarter until February 11, 2015.
What We Do in the Shadows starts its limited engagement February 13, 2015.