Finally, a movie about vampires which is not about teen angst or just does not suck (pun intended). This latest offering from Taika Waititi and long-time collaborator Jermaine Clement is about a flat of vampires in Wellington, New Zealand. Shot in a documentary-style format it follows the group around Wellington as they go about their day-to-day life and explores the challenges of being a vampire in the 21st century.
Most of the comedy comes from the incompetence of the group as they try to find people to kill and their interactions with regular humans. Of course, the New Zealand sense of humour is not entirely about the laugh-out-loud moments (for example, when Viago bites on a victim’s neck causing a non-stop torrent of blood) rather it can rely more on awkward laughs which would otherwise be serious if not executed so well in its punch lines.
For example, one victim is Nick (played by an actually smiling and enjoyable Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) who ends up getting turned despite his previous escape after being led by his ex-girlfriend (Jackie Van Beek) as a lamb to slaughter (she is wanting to be turned despite having a family life). Yet Nick is so taken by his new-found abilities he ends up bragging about it which leads to the oldest vampire Petyr being killed. Another serious moment comes when Nick’s human friend Stu (Stu Rutherford), which the vampires really like having around, ends up getting brutally attacked by the local werewolves (led by the always reliable Rhys Darby). These serious moments though lead to some great laughs.
While some comedies work well with the over-the-top humour, What We Do in the Shadows instead relies on its more organic moments to land the laughs. Sure, the jokes which come with killing people and their abilities to fly or relying on others to tell them how they look because they cannot see themselves in a mirror are great. Yet the good jokes come with being invested in the characters, the atmosphere and this little world of supernatural beasts. It is the real-ness of it all which makes the film work so well.
The movie was successful when it released yet it is not going to be for everyone. If you are looking for a movie which takes aim at Twilight then this is not it. This movie takes a look at what it would be like for real vampires and werewolves (and zombies) to live in the 21st century and the awkward challenges of their unique lives. The jokes are funny though not always side-splitting, but this movie is certainly entertaining with a strong ensemble cast who really offer us a believable take on living as a vampire in Wellington.