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What We Do In The Shadows review

A documentary crew follow the lives of Viago, Deacon and Vladislav as they try to live normal lives in Wellington. The problem is they are vampires, and the new world is not really designed for these age old creatures. Soon they find that paying the rent, overcoming flatmate conflicts and trying to get into nightclubs is more difficult than luring virgins back to their place for a sacrifice – but even that doesn’t quite go to plan.

A spoof mockumentary about vampires is almost the perfect anti-Twilight idea for a movie. Much like Ricky Gervais’ The Office, What We Do In The Shadows doesn’t go for belly laughs – instead it aims for snorts of laughter and cringe worthy moments. The opening half an hour succeeds in establishing the vamps characteristics and there are more than enough chuckles. There is enjoyment to be had as each have their own quirks and don’t work well with the others. Vampire clichés are thrown around and taken apart by the humour, it feels fresh and highly amusing to see someone finally take apart a sub-horror genre with such obviousness.

The problem with the movie is that after the opening salvo it quickly recycles vampire jokes many times over. The first few times we heard them we laughed, as they are written to be against the grain of what we know vampire lore to be, yet by the fourth or fifth time it becomes quite monotonous. The settings maybe different but the payoff lines are virtually the same. It causes the film to shut down on itself as it doesn’t seek to find fresh blood in its spoof jokes but rather re-hash every moment time and again.

A main story arc of little more than watching a night in the life of a vampire also becomes quite tiresome as there really isn’t much more you can throw into those situations that would be alien to the tropes of Nosferatu et al. The sub plots are the most entertaining in the final third especially when the vamps go up against a pack of Werewolves. Clearly realising that this face off works well, the return of the Weres towards the end feels tacked on but still has enough laughs to carry it through.

Clement and Waititi have previously worked together and here they continue their enjoyable & fun working relationship. Both work their characters into the stereotypical vampires that we recognise but they include a slapstick element that freshens up some tired clichés. Sarcastic to the hilt they are instantly watchable regardless of what is going on in the overall storyline.

What We Do In The Shadows comes from the creator of Flight Of The Conchords, and with that pedigree we expected great stuff. But the film/mockumentary suffers from a constant hammering of the same jokes and a rather lifeless main story arc. There is fun to be had with this movie, but it needs more life breathing into it to be a real winner.

Mark Searby
Mark Searby
Film critic for BBC Local Radio. Author of Al Pacino: The Movies Behind The Man. Addict of The Wire. Long-suffering supporter of NFFC.

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