What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi, 2014)
Twilight this ain’t. While tween girls continue to lust after Edward Cullen, What We Do in the Shadows offers a much darker – albeit hilarious – take on vampire life. Filmed as a mockumentary, WWDITS explores the somewhat more mundane aspects of being a vampire in modern day New Zealand. Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham) are flatmates who are hundreds of years old, just trying to get by in the 21st century. Their problems range from who does the blood-stained dishes, to getting into nightclubs when they have to be invited in, to hitting an artery on a victim which means a lot of cleaning up. And to think I complain about vacuuming…
If the comedy-horror genre doesn’t immediately appeal to you, you’d best sit this one out. Early on in the film when Viago – the sweetest vampire of them all (not even joking) – murders a female victim, I feared I’d made a terrible mistake in choosing to watch this movie. All at once it is a terrifying and yet alarmingly funny scene which rouses some unusual emotions (i.e. why the hell am I laughing at this?!) which suggests that the film has succeeded in what it has set out to do. Thankfully after this initial kill – which I suppose they had to show at least one of in a vampire film – we don’t see many more in detail. Rather, the focus is on the more obviously comedic aspects.
Jemaine Clement (best known for being one half of comedy band Flight of the Conchords) and Taiki Waititi direct, write, and star in WWDITS. They reportedly filmed 120 hours of mostly improvised footage. You can imagine everyone involved having a ball making this film as they tossed around ideas about a vampire’s everyday life. There are plenty of funny little touches throughout – such as the blood fondue fountain at the vampire ball – and Clement and Waititi are to be commended for an original, entertaining idea. The entire cast are all a pleasure to watch, with Rhys Darby as the alpha male of the werewolves (“We’re werewolves, not swearwolves”) my personal favourite. That guy is a cracker!
This certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of blood tea. Don’t take your grandma. Don’t take your teenage daughters who think vampires are so cuuuuuuuuute – No, they are NOT cute, and they WILL suck on your blood and it will HURT and you will DIE. Those girls will get a real wake-up call should they venture out to WWDITS but it’s probably not appropriate in the first place. I was extremely surprised to find out the film is only rated M – I had expected at least a MA15+ given the aforementioned kill scene. But I suppose there wasn’t much violence overall. The whole film has a rather dank feel to it – whether that’s the mockumentary style, the low budget, or the subject matter is unclear, but it’s probably a combination of all of the above. Some people would hate this film and I anticipate there may be a few walk-outs. If you are a Conchords fan, you know what type of humour to expect, and you will probably love it. And it still involves a better love story than Twilight.