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What We Do in the Shadows - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published August 27th 2014
Housework sucks
Directors: Taika Waititi (Boy, Eagle Versus Shark), Jemaine Clement,
Cast: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

Just when you thought every possible variant on the vampire sub genre had been exhausted, along comes What We Do In The Shadows, an irreverent mockumentary about a bunch of blood sucking housemates in New Zealand who have their own challenges when it comes to who's turn it is to clean up the human entrails. Think The Young Ones meet The Munsters as imagined by a young Peter Jackson.

what we do in the shadows taika waititi
Viago (Taika Waititi) hits another artery during a late night conquest

The motley crew of nocturnal co-habitants includes Viago (Taika Waititi), an exceedingly polite 18th century vampire who's considerate enough to ensure his victims enjoy their last moments on earth before he drains their blood, the brooding Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) whose machismo disguises a dark secret, and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) who's in a classic alpha male struggle with Vladislav for domestic supremacy. The fourth housemate Petyr (Ben Fransham) is the eldest of the group and seldom leaves his fetid living quarters.

Viago is our guide into their world and is often at pains to present their lifestyle in the best possible light, despite the obvious gruesome nature of their deeds. He introduces us to the methods they use to lure guests to their house and their attempts to throw the authorities off their scent.

what we do in the shadows
Vampire newbie Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) has some problems learning to fly

Trouble starts when a recent victim turned vampire Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) enters the throng. He isn't sticking to the code of ethics and his lack of discretion threatens to blow the lid on the bloodsuckers' covert activities. At least the vampires have no problem with Nick's mortal friend Stu (Stuart Rutherford) hanging around. He may be a nerdish and dull office worker, but he seems little perturbed by the blood and gore around him and his knowledge of such 21st century phenomena as mobile phones is appreciated enough by the vampires that they make a pact not to kill him.

Anyone who's a fan of Clement's most famous vehicle, Flight of the Conchords will key into the humour of Shadows. There's an understated silliness to everything that works because there's an internal logic to this universe and the characters bounce off each other so well.

what we do in the shadows taika waititi
Viago shows off his mirror trick

While much fun is poked at the standard tropes of vampire films, you don't need to be a die-hard fan of the horror sub-genre to get into this. This is a classic fish out of water premise, with the immortals from a bygone era struggling to assimilate into their contemporary surroundings. The gags are plentiful and the pacing is brisk. Whenever you think the premise is going to run its course, a new element is added to heighten the humour and bring more out in the characters. A long running feud with the neighbourhood werewolves, lead by fellow Conchords star Rhys Darby, is a particular hoot.

With a smart (but silly) script and spot on performances, it's no wonder What We Do In The Shadows made it into the top 5 audience favourite films at MIFF 2014. If you think the comedies coming out of Hollywood lately have been a bit bloodless, this one's for you.

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Why? Breaths new life into the vampire flick
Where: At selected cinemas
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