What If I told you that some of the minds behind Flight of the Conchords got together and made a mockumentary film? What if I told you it was a mockumentary about vampires? And what if I told you it was a mockumentary about four different kinds of popular vampires living together in modern-day New Zealand? Because What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary about four different vampires living together in modern-day New Zealand, and it is going to be on the shortlist for funniest films of the year.
The film opens with words up on screen revealing that the film crew was promised safe keeping throughout the filming process inside the vampire house and that they wore crosses the whole time ensure their safety. The film crew is there to document the lives these four vampires in the months leading up to an annual masquerade ball. In short order we are introduced to Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), and Petyr (Ben Framsham). Viago is the Lestat kind of vampire, Vladislav more like Dracula from the Bram Stoker classic, and Petyr is like Count Orlock, and Deacon somewhat more loosely fits into the Lost Boys category. Cameras follow them around while they discuss life as a vampire in Wellington, New Zealand; sleeping during the day and going out to look for victims at night, having house meetings about how the dishes haven’t been done in 5 years and the attempt to implement a chore wheel, the difficulty of looking stylish for going out when you can’t look in a mirror to see how you look, occasionally running into gangs of werewolves when you are walking home at night, and the futility of putting down newspaper on the floor when biting into the neck of a victim.
Only being able to go out at night and not being able to see their reflections severely hampers their clothing styles. Also, they are wildly out of date on almost everything, not just fashion. This begins to change when they Deacon’s human servant Jackie brings a groups of victims to the house for a “party” and one of them, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), ends up getting turned. While they introduce him to the vampire life, he introduced them to modern times, including the internet, which allows Viago to catch up with his former human servant on Skype and Vladimir to do his “dark bidding” (on eBay). The vampires also end up befriending Nick’s best friend Stu just because he’s such a cool guy (when in reality he’s really just quite ordinary and unassuming).
The variety of vampire humor mixed with the mundane and unglamorous is where the film really finds its laughs. Nick can’t get over how cool it is to fly, even if he is terrible at it and it is easier to just use the door, because why use the door when you can fly? The ability to morph into different creatures results in a hilarious bat fight between two characters. The bad blood that exists between vampires and werewolves results in some really great moments of taunting between the two groups, especially when the werewolves start to lose their cool and are chastised by their pack leader Anton (Rhys Darby) to remember their mantra “werewolves not swearwolves.” A quick discussion about the appeal of virgin blood produces one of the funniest lines likely to be uttered in a movie this year. And there are some great references to classic vampires movies and tropes (hypnosis, silver, sunlight, among other things) that produce great laughs and sight gags.
What We Do In The Shadows is one of the funniest movies of the year so far and given its limited release will probably not find a wide audience. However, I suspect it will gain quite the cult following in the years to come. It has everything you want in a mockumentary. It is the first film of the year that will definitely be in consideration for my Best of 2015 list at the end of the year.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars