Vampire films are a dime a dozen these days – but not this one. Lately, Vampires either tend to sparkle in the sunshine or wear skin tight latex – but finally we have a honest look at what it’s like for a creature of the night to live in modern day New Zealand.
What We Do in the Shadows is the hilarious creation of Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark, Boy) who co-wrote, co-starred and co-directed this new mockumentary about a group of ancient European vampires living together in modern day Wellington. It’s a typical fish out of water story – but with vampires, werewolves & zombies.
The following might include some mild spoilers…
Viago (Waititi) plays an 18th century gentleman who followed his human lover to NZ but took a little too long to arrive. Vladislav (Clement) plays an 800 year old vampire with penchant for medieval torture and has a mortal enemy named ‘The Beast’, who has emasculated him and rendered him rather useless. The other two vampires in the flat are Pyotr (Ben Fransham) and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), who was turned by Pyotr centuries before.
Add a new addition to the group – Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) who gets accidentally turned and the vamps now have a connection to the modern world, while Nick gets to enjoy his new-found powers.
The humour in this film lies in the fact that these ancient creatures have to deal with the mundane everyday problems of flat-sharing and living in a modern society. They have arguments about doing the dishes, cleaning the flat, what to wear and so on. If you’ve shared a flat you’ll definitely identify with the typical petty stuff – if you don’t count all the blood, seduction and getting rid of victims. This unconventional flat share is just trying to fit in and deal with modern times, but also has issues from the past to deal with before they can really move on.
It’s filmed in a fly-on-the-wall documentary style, and some of the funniest moments revolve around the prevailing myths about vampires; they have to be invited in so trying to go to nightclubs is always tricky, while getting ready when they can’t see themselves in the mirror is always going to cause issues and create some interesting outfit choices.
Throw in a gang of werewolves whose leader Anton (Rhys Darby) is more concerned with the werewolves being polite and chaining themselves up (so as not to hurt anyone on nights of the full moon), and you start to see an unlikely community of the undead appear on the streets of Wellington.
Later on, eve zombies turn up and add to the mix. It appears the film itself is more about different cultures assimilating and living side by side than detailing the habits of creatures of the night. New Zealand has always been known for having numerous different races of people live in close proximity; and who knows, perhaps werewolves, vampires and zombies are really roaming the streets of Wellington? I mean the film does bill itself as a documentary and seems pretty believable to me at times. The movie influences for What We Do In The Shadows reportedly included Salem’s Lot, Nosferatu, Dracula & the Lost Boys. How can you go wrong with a recipe like that?
All things considered, it works really well, and there is a good mix of humorous and grisly moments that should please horror and comedy fans alike. I highly recommend this film and think anyone who was a fan of their previous collaborations will also get a kick out of it. If you are new to their work then you are certainly in for a treat as Clement and Waititi are a force to be reckoned with, knowing how to put together a funny, gory, heart-warming vampire film.
5 out of 5
The New Zealand Times was invited to attending the UK premiere and also to partaking in the Q&A, so we got to sit down with Jemaine and Taika and grill them before the film. Some of the highlights that transpired included how the two met at Victoria University: Taika had a rasta hat and Jemaine was wearing a Samoan shirt when they first saw each other in the library and thought they each looked like dicks before meeting at an audition later and becoming friends.
Taika said that he had wanted to make a mockumentary and Jemaine had wanted to make a vampire film, which is how this film was born. They had also made a short film version of this years earlier and wanted to keep the same actors, so they had to coordinate all their old friends around NZ and the world to be able to join again.
When quizzed on the future of Flight Of the Conchord’s Jemaine said it took up a lot of their time and was very intense to produce, but added that he would like to work with Brett again, possibly on a musical. But he didn’t say anything definite about the future of the Conchords.