Movie Title: What We Do in the Shadows
Director(s): Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement
Writer(s): Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement
Release Date: June 19, 2014
Hello, beautiful people!
With Thor: Ragnarok releasing over the weekend, I took this opportunity to go back in time a few years and review my favourite Taika Waititi film, What We Do in the Shadows. Now, if you’ve read my other articles, you know I’m kind of a goof, so it only makes sense that this film would be my first official review for Ready Steady Cut.
Anyway, onto the film. Hiding in the shadows of the usual blockbuster Hollywood releases comes a witty and incredibly funny mockumentary about vampires, and other creatures of the night, living in modern day New Zealand. The last place on Earth you’d expect a vampire movie to take place, but hey, it works, because this happens to be the best comedy of the last decade.
Like The Office before it, if done right, a mockumentary can be a beautiful thing, and this was definitely a beautiful thing. We follow the daily lives of four vampires sharing a home and trying to live in the modern age. With the cameras rolling and following the gang around, we get an intimate look at the hilarious routines and struggles of hundreds and thousands of years old vampires and all of their shenanigans in-between. While the handy-cam genre of horror seems overdone and often times obnoxious, this approach feels fresh and not as intrusive as handy-cam films typically are. This is mostly due to the fact that while the camera crew is acknowledged and part of the central story, they don’t actually interfere aside from the occasional sit down interview with the characters.
Ok, but is it funny or just stupid?
Oh, it’s incredibly clever, the characters are just incredibly stupid. The entire film is a running gag on popular vampire tropes mixed with that signature New Zealand comedy from Taika and co., for example: there is a brilliant montage of the group trying to get into the popular nightclubs around Wellington, but of course, they have to be invited in by the bouncer to be able to enter.
Where this film really works though, is right back in their home, where Vlad tends to do his “dark bidding on the internet” on eBay. As previously mentioned they’re not the brightest and Viago (Taika Waititi) desperately tries to motivate his flatmates to pull their weight around the house, whether its getting Deacan to do the dishes finally after 5 years, or laying newspaper down on the floor to stop the bloodstains from destroying the floor and couch. They’re just like us! Except, y’know… bloodthirsty corpses.
This group has worked with each other for a long time on many projects and aren’t afraid to get silly (just check out that Scooby Doo-esque chase scene). This very clearly comes across to the viewer and you just can’t help but smile and laugh your way through it. There is an old showbiz saying, “dark is easy; funny is hard”, and luckily for us – this is a masterclass in both.
It isn’t scary at all?
Not particularly. I would categorize this film as a comedy first with horror elements. Much different than, say, Shaun of the Dead, where that movie is more of a horror film with comedic elements.
What about the technical side of things?
Well, the special effects in this film aren’t particularly what it is going to be known for. Seriously, look at that cat Vlad turns into – Top 5 funniest things I’ve ever seen because it’s so horrendously bad. Seeing the vampires float around their house and hiss at each other over not doing the dishes for 5 years. Or Nick awkwardly floating in through the window, is about as intense as the effects get, and that’s perfectly okay.
Furthermore, the set and costumes and character designs more than make up for it. You have to remember these vamps are hundreds of years old, and their style definitely isn’t any younger. That’s the beauty of it though. All of this comes together to add to the running gag this film is based around. It doesn’t need to be flashy or over the top. The characters, and really the actors themselves, are so over the top there’s no room or need for anything else.
What about the plot? Is What We Do in the Shadows at least interesting?
Of course. Amongst the constant flow of jokes, our undead gentlemen bite a man who seemingly is the most annoying human on the planet. Unfortunately for them, he eventually turns into a vampire. Nick, the newly turned vamp, does bring some good things to the group like everybody’s new favourite human, Stu, who is apparently the Bella Swan of this film. However, Nick also serves as the catalyst for their downfall… almost, anyway. Telling everybody he can about his newfound powers and status, he unwittingly tells a vampire hunter.
Nonetheless, a vampire hunter isn’t the only issue they face. They have numerous run-ins with werewolves (not swearwolves) and of course… The Beast. Without giving too much away, this film is brilliantly paced. At times I found that the movie went by too quickly because I was too busy laughing. Not that that’s a bad thing, I just wish it was like 20 hours longer. I really do believe this would thrive as a TV series. We have to settle for the werewolf spin-off recently announced instead. Beggars can’t be choosers.
If Thor: Ragnarok was your introduction to this particular brand of humour or you’ve loved Flight of the Conchords and you’re craving a bit more. I highly suggest you check this out. My only real issue with What We Do in the Shadows is What in the Hell Do We Do After This Movie is Over. Aside from just restarting it, obviously. Which is what you should do. Which is also what I’m going to do after writing this sentence. Watch it.
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