In present day New Zealand, a documentary crew has been allowed access to film a group of vampires living in a nice flat. Viago (Taika Waititi)), the head of the house, is the vampire who take us through the majority of their lives. He’s attempting to adapt to 21st century lifestyle, but finds himself longing for his old ride-to-be. Also inhabiting the house is Vladisav (Jermaine Clement) the Poker, a once torturing vampire who’s practices are a tad odd, and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), the uptight vampire who always seems a bit angsty. Together, the crew follows them through what they consider a “normal” life.
What We Do in the Shadows is the latest ﬁlm from the hilarious gentlemen behind The Flight of the Concords and while it does contain much of their style of humor, it’s not as funny as one would have hoped for, given their track record. Their mockumentary style look into the life of vampires is a fun idea that beneﬁts from their sense of humor, but also falls short given their quirkiness and storytelling. Not that this is a criticism, but the ﬁlm was also missing their signature songs that gained them such notoriety in their show and with other ﬁlms.
The biggest thing that this film has going for it is the documentary style approach. The characters react as anyone being filmed would, but it’s even funnier that these characters are vampires. We’re taken through the daily lives of the modern vampires out-of-time and it’s often hilarious. Watching these age-old vampires try to fit in is hilarious and their dedication to old-world habits is amusing. Their interactions with new-age vampires is fun and it’s hilarious when they come across their natural enemies, the werewolves.
Taika Waititi is the biggest contributor among the vampires, providing the biggest laughs and the best asides in the film. In a way, he’s the Michael Scott of the flat and his helplessness and humor make him an instantly likable guy. His heart is in the right place, but he never entirely knows how to act accordingly. One instance involving wining and dining on a sweet girls proves to be one of the film’s funniest scenes. He’s trying to figure the world out and he tries his very best to set an example for his fellow vampire. He’s a bit dry, but he’s funny nonetheless and brings a great spirit to the film.
Jermaine Clement, one-half of Flight of the Concords, plays the most exotic vampire in the film and his humor is wondrous. He’s a parody of “Vlad the Impaler” and the way he carries himself is perfect. He works well with Waititi, but even better with Brugh, who probably has the most angsty role. Brugh has the most reservations among the group and he’s incredibly confrontational for being not-so intimidating. Newcomer vampire Gonzalez-Maucer also brings some humor with his naive, 21st century knowledge. Together, the four vampires play fairly well off of one another.
For as often as this ﬁlm’s subtle humor works, it does get a bit old and unfunny after a while. The ﬁlming style and interaction with the characters will draw immediate comparisons to The Ofﬁce, but the characters here aren’t nearly as consistently funny and the whole “old vampires in a modern setting” isn’t always as funny as they’d like to believe it is. There are many bits of this ﬁlm, like a ball towards the end, that just feel silly and unnecessary. Jermaine Clement, the most notable actor in the ﬁlm, isn’t given nearly as much screen-time as he deserves, especially because he’s the funniest in the bunch.
What We Do in the Shadows is at times a laugh-riot, but doesn’t consistently deliver the laughs and the film suffers because of all the silence in the air. The New-Zealand “kiwi” humor comes in waves, much like British and American humor. The stopping and looking at the camera for a reaction is amusing, but it does get old when some jokes don’t stick as well as they thought. I did, however, really enjoy the approach they took and the way that they essentially portrayed a modern vampires life. As I stated before, though, the film needs more Jermaine Clement and maybe even some vampire songs (cue Jason Segel).
What We Do in the Shadows Trailer