What We Do in the Shadows

Dir: Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement
Star: Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Rhys Darby, Ben Fransham

Regardless of whether this is the first entry in the "vampire mockumentary" sub-genre - Belgium's Vampires got there a full four years previously, though the origins here date back to a 2006 short film - this New Zealand effort does find fresh life in the undead, who come over as an adorable combination of incompetent and threatening. A group of vampires share a flat in Wellington, having to deal with all the usual issues, i.e. people not doing the washing-up when it's their turn, as well as the additional ones due to their unconventional lifestyle, such as dealing with vampire hunters. They range in age from the newly-minted Nick (Gonzalez-Macuer), to the archaic Petyr (Fransham), with Viago (Waititi) acting as the unofficial leader of the group. Which basically means he tries to enforce the cleaning rota, whines about the mess left by the others' kills, and keep the group under the radar. Nick, however, is having issues coming to terms with his recent change, and friction results, not least when he turns a human minion into a vampire.

The balance in this horror-comedy is tilted firmly toward the latter: Petyr, who is firmly in the Nosferatu rather than Twilight camp, is the only one vaguely threatening. Mostly, the targets are the results of trying to combine the vampire and modern environments. For instance, it's hard to have a night out on the town, when you have to be invited in everywhere. The best moments result from this interplay between the two sides, such as a police visit where Viago has to use his wobbly hypnotic skills to prevent them finding the corpses in the basement. Less effective are the efforts at portraying a whole paranormal subculture. The end of year get-together, combining vampires, witches and zombies, looks more like a night at a crap Goth club. Which, I suppose, may be part of the point [Viago has more than a touch of Chris Kattan from SNL's "Goth Talk" skits]. Still, there's enough here to make for a gently amusing time, even if one awaits the eventual IFC spin-off series with dread.

[March 2015]

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