For all the variations of the zombie movie out there – standard horror, Nazisploitation, the zomcom – it’s a bit of a surprise there aren’t more takes on the vampire.
Their slightly more refined brethren, for all that velvet, lace, and eyeliner, have been played surprisingly “straight”. This new film from directing duo Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) goes some way to repairing that.
What We Do in the Shadows takes the form of a New Zealand mockumentary, found footage meets Hammer Horror, set in in the dilapidated flat of four housemates: the prissy Viago (Waiti), slovenly Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), the torturer Vladislav (Clement), and silent Petyr (Ben Fransham). They like to go out, meet girls, and argue over whose turn it is do the the dishes. They just so happen to be vampires.
Viago is a Georgian dandy, still pining after his lost love; he likes to put down newspaper before he murders someone. Deacon is a Medieval peasant with a penchant for leather pants. Vlad is an infamous 11th Century torturer a la Vlad the Impaler. And Petyr is basically Nosferatu AKA Count Orlok, furious hissing and all. The film explores what happens when a new member, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), is added to the dynamic.
The humour comes juxtaposing mundane realities of living with a group of mate with the horror tropes we all know and love. Like what happens when you’re getting ready for a night out but can’t see yourself in the mirror? And what’s the obsession with virgins? Well, as Vlad puts it, “If you’re going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you know no one had f****ed it”. The film has the genius to treat it all as matter of course
Throw in Rhys Darby as a lightly pompous alpha werewolf, who treats his pack like a football team – “We’re werewolves, not swear-wolves” – and frustrated familiar Jackie (Jackie van Beek), who’s convinced she would have been bitten years ago if she had a penis, and What We Do in the Shadows makes for well-observed genre silliness.
This is a world where one’s Dark Bidding takes place on eBay, and all the better for it.