The idea for What We Do in the Shadows had been in Jemaine Clement’s and Taika Waititi’s heads since at least 2006, before Twilight came round and inadvertently sent up the entire vampire myth. The good news for us is that their vision of a bloodsucker mockumentary has finally become reality, and the results are so funny, that it gives 22 Jump Street a run for its money as the funniest movie of the year.
After a hilarious disclaimer pops up onscreen telling us that the documentary team have been promised safety from its subjects, we’re quickly plunged into the lives of Viago, Vladislav, Deacon and Petyr, four vampires who flatshare in Wellington, New Zealand. After being introduced to these fantastic comedy creations in increasingly dramatic turns, the film’s tone is set when the tension hilariously halts with a ‘flat meeting’, where the fanged flatmates moan about whose turn it is to do the dishes. Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, part of the creative team behind Flight of the Conchords and Eagle vs Shark, have taken a genre that’s full of parody potential, and twisted it into a completely relatable tale of nights out, brothership, and living with people you may not 100 percent like.
From the start of the movie, we’re told that these characters will end up at the Unholy Masquerade Ball – a shindig where the undead get together and drink cocktails – which smartly gives the movie some narrative direction, but the bulk of What We Do in the Shadows focuses on the vamps just fooling around as they try to get invited into nightclubs, pretend that a ghost is lifting cups in the mirror, or bungle attacks on their victims. Those latter moments definitely put the horror into its horror-comedy, but don’t let the occasional gore put you off; the only blood that matters here is what will be rushing to your head as you laugh.
Possibly the best thing about What We Do in the Shadows is that it always feels like an inside joke, but one that the cast and crew have let you in on. For every brilliantly judged slapstick moment, like Vladislav hoovering the flat while levitating, the real comedy comes from the characters – built up from nuanced character beats and their relationship to one another, building toward fantastic payoffs such as a bat fight (which we’ll let you find out about for yourself). There are too many great parts here to mention – the vampires’ rivalry with a gang of werewolves is an especially memorable highlight – and the comparisons with This is Spinal Tap! are all entirely valid. What We Do in the Shadows will soon become a comedy gem.