Impulse Buy Theater - What We Do In The Shadows
Updated: Mar 13
When I first set about on this review trilogy, I thought Deathgasm was an Aussie film. Turns out it was from New Zealand. So that, combined with the focus of this review, What We Do in the Shadows, ends up making this more Kiwi heavy than I’d initially thought when putting this together. [Exactly when did we start caring about accuracy here? Did I miss a meeting? Again? – Ed.] Thus, if anyone is offended by this trilogy being called ‘Down Under’ even though there’s only one Australian film in it…well…uh…yes, we’ll pretend we care…please let us know in the comments section and we’ll get right on…um…I dunno…maybe hunting down another Australian film…I guess. [Good plea to actually get folks to use the comments section. There’ve been like…four…people comment…and I know them all personally. Sigh. Kinda sad really. – Ed.]
What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious mockumentary focusing on four, then five, then back to four, vampires living in Wellington, New Zealand. It’s a great film…although…I’m really having a hard time finding the words to back that up and convincing you why you should think so too. Soooooo…that’s it! Thank you and goodnight!
[Get back here and work through it. It’s called writer’s block, you idiot…now push through. – Ed.]
Dammit. I was totally hoping that would work. Right, back on topic then…What We Do in the Shadows. The premise of the mockumentary is simple, focusing on four vampires that share a flat in New Zealand and the events of their lives leading up to the yearly gathering of the undead and other interested parties (I put it that way because there are Vampires, Zombies and Witches…and only two of those really constitute ‘undead’…no matter what any witch, wiccan or goth girl will tell you): The Unholy Masquerade Ball. The Ball itself constitutes a small portion of the film…the bulk instead focuses on bringing our vampires of various ages up to speed with current technology through their most recent addition…Nick.
Before we go into that though, let’s make a run through our flatmates. Viago, played by Taika Waititi, is our guide for much of the film…and given his attire, I can’t help but think that maybe he’s a parody of Anne Rice’s vampires…given his frilly outfits. In fact, this might be the best place to point out that most of the flat mates are indeed spins on different eras of vampires in cinema…with possibly one exception…I’ll get to that in a bit. But just as they characterize different aspects of vampires in film, each flatmate also embodies typical roommate stereotypes. [Okay, it’s either flatmate or roommate…pick a side of the English language that you like and stick with it. – Ed.] Viago is the neat freak…but also the orchestrator/administrator of flat meetings and waking everyone up in the evening. Much of the humor from him can be summed up in one word: Awkward. Whether it’s his interactions with his flatmates or the documentary crew…you can tell that he’s just not really comfortable in dealing with anyone. Is that a function of being a vampire…or has he been that way all along? My vote would be mostly column B but certainly not helped by column A. Next up we have Vladislav ‘The Poker’, played by Jemaine Clement, who obviously owes a debt to Gary Oldman and Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Dracula. As for where he ranks on the roommate scale, he’s both the womanizer and the one who’s room you DO NOT enter. Vlad, as his name would suggest, is very much set up to be on model with Vlad Tepes. [Yes, we know, there’s all sorts of punctuation that goes with that…according to Wikipedia…but we’re a low rent website that types up our reviews on Microsoft Word…so either deal with it or send us money. – Ed.] Vlad, we learn, isn’t the charmer he once was…as ever since his break-up with the oft alluded to ‘Beast’, his powers of hypnosis have been a bit…off. This doesn’t stop him from putting on airs, often times with hilarious results. Petyr, the oldest of the group clocking in at 8000 years old, goes old school silent film Count Orlock on us from F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and thus, is the most bestial of the flatmates. As you could imagine, this puts him as ‘the flatmate no one ever hears from and it’s better that way’. You know the sort…”if I don’t know what he’s doing, that means when I’m asked about it by law enforcement, I don’t have to lie”. Lastly, there’s Deacon, played by Jonathan Brugh. Where he falls on the vampires in cinema comparison…well, I’m kinda at a loss. I’ve watched the film a couple of times now and…yeah, I got nothing. He certainly doesn’t fit into the Bela Lugosi mold…the one template that is surprisingly missing. Granted they may have skipped that one due to one, it being the most obvious and two, parodies of Bela Lugosi’s take on the character have been done to death, thank you very much. But what other vampires do we have? Now, granted, I’m not exactly on the up and up on my bloodsuckers. I’m more of a zombies and homicidal masked maniacs sort of guy. But seriously…I’m completely stumped…so if you’ve got some insight…please, drop a comment! [Another plug for the comments section…nice. Granted, no one’s gonna bite…but still, you get a cookie. – Ed.] On the roommate scale, he’s very easy…he’s clearly the slob and the ‘asshole who isn’t such a terrible guy’. Unfortunately, Brugh plays an asshole so well that…well…I found the character to be an asshole and someone that I just didn’t particularly enjoy seeing on screen. That’s probably a testament to the writing, directing and acting…but yeah…gotta admit, not enjoyable as a viewer. Wait! I’ve got it! [Gotta love these next day edits, huh? – Ed.] Maybe he’s the creepy, stalker-y vampire from Embrace of the Vampire. I mean…after all, the belly dance he does a little more than halfway through the film would certainly be a fine mockery of the excessively erotic for late-night Skin-emax viewing vampire…right? I dunno…maybe I’m reaching with that one.
But wait…there’s more! Our vampires don’t live in complete seclusion. You see, Deacon has a Familiar who lures in victims for his flatmates to feast upon. Jackie, said Familiar, does this in the hopes that Deacon will eventually turn her…which you can tell by watching that he certainly has no intention of doing. On the one hand, she’s sympathetic because you know Deacon’s just doing this to have a servant…but on the other hand…well, she kinda deserves it…wasting her life on his whims in the hopes of…well…having more life to waste I suppose. She embodies all those vampire fangirls that, sorry ladies, I just don’t understand the obsession or allure. [Don’t worry…it’s not like any women read this site. We’ve just made the Feminist Reprogramming Commando Death Squad’s ‘Top 10 websites we’ll hunt you down for looking at’ list! This is cause for celebration…I think. Yeah, quickly…before they find out! – Ed.] Anyway, it’s through Jackie that we meet Nick. Remember him? I mentioned him earlier…so you kinda know what his fate is going to be. Well, our boys kinda screw up the feasting and Nick gets loose…only for Petyr to finish things off…and then turn him.
Now feeling responsible, our four…scratch that, Petyr, as always, goes back to his solitary ways…our three vampires attempt to show Nick the ropes. It’s here that the film really shines as it lovingly prods vampire lore. Find out what happens if a vampire tries to consume human food. SEE…why it’s so damn important to keep your trap shut about being a vampire. WITNESS…the vampire/werewolf rivalry in action. [In case they’re reading…don’t worry Team Wolfcop, we’re still strictly on the werewolf side of things! – Ed.] One of these prods that really sticks with me though is the concept that a vampire cannot enter a place without being invited. This makes clubbing a bit of a problem. Oh, and bat-fights.
Circling back around, where does Nick fall in Vampires in Cinema scale. Well, being the newest to the group, and the fact that he shouts it out at times, the obvious choice would be Twilight…and, since I’ve never seen any of those films (because I have these things called testicles)…I’ll just have to take his word for it. [You know, there IS such a thing as too much information. – Ed.]
The last human worth mentioning here is Stu…Nick’s friend. Stu ends up being accepted by the guys and takes on the thankless task of introducing them to modern technology and computing. Most notable of these instances both involve Viago…one where Viago Skypes with his former servant and the other where he learns how to scan, enlarge and print out the portrait of his long lost love…and then makes good use of it. [Oh…so NOW you decide to use gentler language to describe certain…situations? Sigh…I swear. Are there any other websites looking for disembodied editorial voices? I’m going to prep my resume, just in case. – Ed.] Stu makes such an impression on the guys that they simply have to bring him to The Unholy Masquerade Ball…well, him and the camera crew…which leads us to the end of the picture. Let us simply say that Stu’s rosy complexion makes him the center of attention.
There’s plenty more I’m not telling you about…mainly because I don’t want to give away all the humor of this film…and it truly is stocked to the…er…fangs with it. This movie has it all…jokes that make you wince, jokes that make you chuckle and the occasional good old-fashioned guffaw. And, of course, gore. It’s vampires, you idiot, of course there will be blood spraying. Better stop now before I spoil anything. Seriously…and this’ll be one of the few serious things about the film…see this…see this NOW! [That joke might make sense after they see the movie…but right now…probably not. – Ed.]