Released February 13, 2015
Rated R (Bloody Violence, Language, Brief Sexual Material)
1 hr. 26 min.
Written, Directed, and Produced by and Starring Jemaine Clement (Dinner for Schmucks, Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok)
Cinematography by Richard Bluck (Black Sheep, Beyond the Edge) and D.J. Stipsen (The Nuclear Comeback, The Golden Hour)
Music by Plan 9 (Orangutan Island, The Last Ocean)
Edited by Tom Eagles (Spartacus, Ash vs Evil Dead), Yana Gorskaya (Rocket Science, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), and Jonathan Woodford-Robinson (Spartacus, The Warrior’s Way)
Also Produced by Emanuel Michael (Boy, Great Expectations) and Chelsea Winstanley (Te Whakarauora Tangata, Night Shift)
Also Starring Jonathan Brugh (How to Meet Girls from a Distance, 800 Words), Cori Gonzalez-Macuer (Eagle vs Shark, A Night at the Classic), Stu Rutherford (Boy), Ben Fransham (Ash vs Evil Dead, The Shannara Chronicles), Jackie van Beek (Eagle vs Shark, 800 Words), Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords, Yes Man), and Elena Stejko (Mercy Peak, Russian Snark)
Lampooning reality TV, feature documentaries of the same sort, and – in parts – the found footage horror genre, but mostly just having a good time, What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious mockumentary, low-budget but successful in everything it attempts. It’s also one of the funniest ensemble comedies to appear in American movie theaters in the last few years. Heck, it’s one of the best comedies of the past few years. If you like horror comedies, or just comedies in general, you have to watch this one, if you haven’t already. After all, it is October, a fantastic time to dig into a new horror themed film!
Or you can watch What We Do in the Shadows for homework. That’s right. New Zealander Taika Waititi has slowly been making a name for himself in the last several years. With movies like this one and last year’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Waititi has proven himself a capable and unique director with a wry sense of humor that I can appreciate. However, you probably know him (or, at least, have heard of him) as the director of the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. You should watch What We Do in the Shadows so you can pick up on his idiosyncratic comical disposition when you see it in Ragnarok. Or, if you have already seen the third Thor before reading this review and you enjoyed its humor, go watch this to get the same in huge dollops. It has loads of amusingly eccentric dialogue too.
The premise of the movie is this: Four vampires share a flat in Wellington, New Zealand. A documentary crew has been given special access to film this fringe community as they go about their everyday lives and, eventually, attend the yearly Unholy Masquerade Ball.
I will tell you little more than that. There’s a bit of a through-line story plot, or, actually, a few. Yet none of them really, truly matter. We get a kick out of seeing these four vampires’ humdrum lives. We think of vampires as grand and extraordinary. The comedy comes from What We Do in the Shadows‘ ordinary treatment. One vampire is a 19th century merchant (Brugh), one a dandy from the 18th century (Waititi), one a medieval tyrant (Clement), one an old Count-Orlek-from-Nosferatu–looking codger (Fransham). They each carry their own baggage, like being on the wrong side of World War II, losing the love of a lifetime, a history of sadism, and millennia of vampirism. They’re also each far, far out of touch with the world outside, a world in which they do wish they could participate more fully. They begin to be able to participate more fully when two new folks enter their scene: a newly turned vampire (Gonzalez-Macuer), who the older guys think is in touch with the modern world, and a human IT guy (Rutherford), who is in touch with modern technology.
Has something like this been done before? Sure, in some ways. But rarely this effectively, delightfully, and clever.
Not every aspect is perfect here, but it’s about as good as it could be considering the limited resources these guys had on hand while filming. I think the budget was between one and two million dollars, and they do attempt more effects-heavy scenes (done well, by the way) than I thought they would.
Not that it matters as much on this one, but I give What We Do in the Shadows an 87%. Check it out immediately!