Movie News & Reviews

“What We Do in the Shadows” brings humor to vampire tropes

Roommates Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) don’t blend in well with the Wellington, New Zealand nightlife: Their European accents, their insistence on being formally invited into a dance club, their preoccupation with finding virgins.

To make matters worse, not only is their house smelly and dirty from neglected chores, house guests have to tolerate impromptu newspaper carpets and disturbing pranks inspired by “The Lost Boys.” Life sucks as a vampire.

Pleased to welcome a film crew into their secret lives, the three share all the grim, mundane details of vampire life in the months leading up to Wellington’s annual Unholy Masquerade Ball. And the result is a delightful, well-paced mockumentary.

Thanks to “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” and Christopher Guest’s films, most filmgoers are familiar with the mockumentary approach. The comedic tendency with those TV shows is to maximize the awkward and caricature the self-aggrandizement and neuroses we’re prone to encounter in our daily lives.

“Shadows” skews that formula by allowing the strange to trump the awkward. These vampires are just weird, oblivious losers adherent to the hilarious customs that vampire mythology stipulates.

Waititi and Clement do more than play gotcha with unquestioned genre conventions, such as why vampires always appear so well-dressed when they can’t see themselves in mirrors. Instead, they self-consciously prance around each other for outfit approval and draw pathetic mirror sketches in well-meaning support.

A believable, relatively unknown supporting cast keeps the film interesting. There’s Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) the loudmouth dimwit, trying to blend into their scene after recently falling victim to their truly menacing roommate, Petyr (Ben Fransham).

And there’s Stu (Stuart Rutherford), Nick’s human friend, whose unassuming computer nerd characteristics are embraced by the roommates. They’re especially keen on Stu’s computer literacy lessons that introduce them to this whole Internet and social media thing.

Jackie van Beek plays a loyal, immortality-craving servant who tolerates her lazy master Deacon’s burdensome chores, despite balancing a family life as mother.

There’s even some goofy confrontations with a street gang of werewolves embarrassed by their carnage potential. The film’s gore factor is notable but not too overwhelming, and the comedy isn’t afraid to actually scare you from time to time either. A brilliant masquerade climax and solid special effects throughout should also leave you entertained.


• Anyone tired of the Jason Bateman strained-smile comedies and eager for fresh faces.

• Those bored with the mockumentary format.

• Lovers of horror comedy.

Brendan Funtek is a staff member in the sports department and long-time film enthusiast. He has volunteered for Olympia Film Society and led film discussions at the Grand Cinema.