wed 29/05/2024

What We Do in the Shadows | reviews, news & interviews

What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows

Vampire fun from New Zealand

From left, standing: Vladislav, Viago and Stu; seated are Deacon, Petyr and Nick

Clearly the makers of this delightful film from New Zealand have watched a lot of movies, as so many are neatly and obliquely referenced – Nosferatu, The Blair Witch Project, The Lost Boys, Grease, to name just a few - in a comic tale about a group of vampires in Wellington.

It's spearheaded by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi – collaborators as performer and writer respectively in Flight of the Conchords - who write, direct and star in here, and are ably abetted by any number of their friends from New Zealand's thriving and deeply inter-connected arts community. It is, my Kiwi pals tell me, the kind of supportive network that helps create quality-first rather than ego-led work.

And so it proves here as Clement and Waititi are Vladislav and Viago (pictured below), two rather fetching vampires sharing a house with bad boy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), bickering about who will do the washing-up and establishing a cleaning rota – oh, the amount of blood thirsty vampires create! They allow a documentary group to follow them as they prepare for the vampires' annual shindig, the Unholy Masquerade, where the raffle prize is a human to be killed for his blood.

Petyr, the 8,000-year-old vampire who lives in the basement, turns Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) - who has been inveigled into the house by Deacon's familiar Jackie (Jackie Van Beek) - into a vampire. Big mistake. When the younger vampires - well, age is relative in vampire terms, as Vladislav, a grumpy medieval torturer, is 862, Viago, a neat-freak dandy, is 379 and Deacon, who once flirted with Nazism, is a mere child at 183 - go out on the town for a night of clubbing Nick shoots his mouth off about how cool being a vampire is and sets in train their undoing.

The actors nicely underplay the pseudo-documentary spoofery – which, let's face it, has been done to death now - and the jokes are nicely subtle. The vampires can't just go into a nightclub, they have follow vampire protocol and wait to be asked to enter the premises, so we follow them repeatedly trying and failing to get into bars, and when Stu (Stu Rutherford) – Nick's human friend who is in IT – brings the vampires into the 21st century by hooking them up with phones and the internet they are utterly spooked by text messages.

The film kicks up a gear when the guys, on their way home from clubbing one night, bump into a pack of werewolves, led by Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby. These scenes provide many of the best moments - Darby's Anton doesn't like his wolverine mates cussing, so when they do he reminds them “We're werewolves, not swearwolves” - and the two groups face off against each other like the Sharks and Jets.

In truth, What We Do in the Shadows is more a collection of (much of them) improvised sketches, rather than a neatly flowing narrative. But we care about the characters - the lovelorn Viago is particularly affecting - the film looks superb (full marks to the design team of Ra Vincent, Danelle Satherley and Amanda Neale) and the makers never forget they're making a comedy. Great fun.

The film kicks up a gear when the guys bump into a pack of werewolves led by Rhys Darby


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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