Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
It has been awhile since horror fans have been treated to a good horror-comedy mockumentary (Behind the Mask is the last one that comes to mind), and thankfully directors Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) and Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark) have made a worthy entry into the sub-genre that will surely slay audiences with laughter when it sinks its teeth into the Toronto International Film Festival.
What We Do in the Shadows is a self-aware mockumentary that follows the “lives” of four vampire roommates living in Wellington, New Zealand, weeks before the “Unholy Masquerade.” A camera crew trails Viago (Waititi), the uptight house leader; Deacon (Brugh), the former Nazi vampire, now self-acclaimed bad boy; Vladislav (Clement), the cheeky torturer; and Petyr (Fransham), the 8,000-year-old Nosferatu doppelgänger as they stalk their victims, fight over standard roommate issues like dirty dishes (or bloody dishes in this case), and struggle to adapt to the times.
Things become complicated for the group when Petyr turns the dim-witted Nick (Gonzalez-Macuer) into a vampire and they must take him under their bat wings during his early stages of vampirehood. Weary at first, the group doesn’t welcome Nick in, until they discover he can get them into the hottest clubs. Also, when Nick invites his best human friend, Stu (Rutherford), into the group, they realize that although they are breaking all of their rules, they are enjoying the benefits of finally adapting to the modern, technological world.
However, things take a turn for the worse when Nick becomes far too cocky and begins bragging to humans of how he is a vampire. By revealing the group’s secret, he puts them all in grave danger.
What We Do in the Shadows is a satirical, dark comedy that manages to hit all the right notes when it comes to the comedic and horror elements. Viewers are privy to hilariously dark scenes involving vampires fighting with werewolves with good morals, a blood-sucking encounter that goes horribly awry, and an analogy that compares virgin blood to a sandwich in a brilliantly put way. The fact that the directors are able to keep the portrayal of their subjects as realistic and sympathetic as possible, in spite of the fact they are in fact antagonistic vampires, is quite an accomplishment.
Having said that, What We Do in the Shadows does suffer from a few pitfalls. Despite the film’s 87-minute running time, it surprisingly manages to drag in parts; and because of the lack of any interaction with the cameramen, it evolves into a standard horror-comedy rather than the subversive mockumentary it started out being.
Fans of the “Granddaddy of horror mockumentaries,” Man Bites Dog, will definitely be interested in seeing What We Do in the Shadows. In spite of its shortcomings, the film manages to keep up a miraculous witty charm that is difficult to ignore.
The film’s TIFF 2014 screenings take place on September 12, 13, and 14. Get more info from TIFF.net.
3 1/2 out of 5