A conversation on Twitter over the weekend reminded me of my film review of the New Zealand film What We Do In The Shadows which was published on AMH Network in 2014. It was not an Academy Award Nominated film, but a stand out of the year in my opinion…
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
University friend’s Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Boy) join forces to write, direct and star in their first feature film together.
What We Do in the Shadows is a comedy, horror mockumentary focusing on the lives of four flatmates in New Zealand. We follow Viago (Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Clement) and Petyr (Ben Fransham), the 8000 year old Nosferatu look-a-like who does not utter a word throughout the film, as they go about their everyday activities in an effort to show the world what it is that vampires actually do.
With a wonderfully witty and dry script paired with seemingly simple yet effective special effects and intelligent direction it is difficult to not be drawn into this film from the onset.
The realness of the characters, despite being vampires, allows audiences to sympathise, and occasionally empathise, with them. For example, when Vladislav laments coming face to face with the Beast, Pauline Ivanovich (Elena Stejko), his ex girlfriend, the dread and temporary depression he slips into is something many people can relate to.
With an exceptional supporting cast including Jackie van Beek, Stuart Rutherford and Rhys Darby, What We Do in the Shadows focuses on the different relationships of the characters in a holistic fashion. This works to its advantage as it draws you into the sub plot with complete cohesion and without distraction or hesitation.
A highlight of the film is the occasional run-ins between the vampires and a random pack of werewolves led by Anton (Darby). Reminiscent of groups of teenagers walking past each other at night and hurling abuse, the scenes are made humorous by the fact they are adults, particularly old adults, acting in a child like manner. Simple off the cuff dialogue such as “we’re werewolves, not swearwolves” in such altercations are a wonderful addition and highlight Clement and Waititi’s penchant for small details which bind the film together.
The balance between comedy and horror is carefully considered with just the right amount of blood splatter mixed in between scenes to not leave you queasy. Viago’s habit of hitting the main artery of his victims leaves quite a mess, but the manner with which he attempts to control the blood flow is both hilarious and endearing.
What We Do in the Shadows is a wonderful addition to the vampire genre of films and exponentially better than the majority of mainstream films in this genre. It is quaint, heart warming and intelligently funny. It is a true gem of 2014.
4 / 5