WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
There have been vampire comedies before most notably Roman Polanskis The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) and Love at First Bite (1979) while the 1980s gave way to a host of not very funny efforts with the likes of Mama Dracula (1980), Once Bitten (1985), My Best Friend is a Vampire (1987), I Brought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995). I would have to say that What We Do in the Shadows enters the game head and shoulders way above all of these.
What We Do in the Shadows hilariously skewers both the Found Footage film and the vampire genre from the very first scene where we see Taika Waititi rise from his coffin vertically just like Max Schreck in Nosferatu (1922) as the alarm goes off for sundown. He introduces himself to the camera, before taking us on a tour of the house waking Jonathan Brugh where he hangs upside down in the closet and visiting the Max Schreck-like Ben Fransham in his coffin in the basement, tut-tutting him for leaving spinal columns littering the floor. This segues into the side-splitting scenes where the group call a flat meeting and we have the incongruity of vampires debating about who hasnt done the dishes or is responsible for letting blood spill all over the living room furniture.
The cast all have down the deadpan banality of people giving reality tv soundbite interviews Jermaine Clement shaking his head and solemnly intoning: I would torture people when I was in a very bad place. Or where we see Taika Waititi bringing a girl home, wooing her and then putting towels down on the floor before biting into her neck and afterwards reflecting on it: That didnt go so well. I think I hit the main artery. I made a real mess in there. On the up side, I think she had a really good time. During a fight scene, the vampires are wont to come out with lines like Get up and stand on the ceiling like a man. And then there is the visit to the masquerade the on-screen credit announces it as Cathedral of Despair, while more banally the sign on the building tells us it is the Victoria Bowling Club and inside the MC announces Were raffling a live meat pack this year, as the camera cuts to a victim waiting in a cage.
The film is packed with hilariously deadpan throwaway gags in just about every frame the vampires prowling down Courtney Place (the main entertainment strip in Wellington) and unable to get into any of the nightclubs to claim victims because the bouncers wont invite them in; or flying up to the window of the flat just like the vampires in Salems Lot (1979) but new vampire Cori Gonzalez-Macuer then struggling to get his legs through the frame. Or of Taika Waititi forlornly lurking outside the window of a geriatric home longing for his lost love and at the end settling down with her, telling us he is unconcerned over accusations of cradle-snatching with he being several hundred years old settling down with a mere octogenarian.
The deadpan nature of the performances is side-splitting, especially when all of the vampire characters have chosen to play with fake East European accents. Of these, Taika Waiaiti gets the lions share of screen time and proves the worlds most cuddly and adorable vampire. Rhys Darby, another Flight of the Conchords alumni, turns up as the leader of a werewolf pack, trying to keep his team under control: Just remember were werewolves, not swearwolves. This is an incredibly creative and witty film.
Taika Waititi has next went on to make Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) and the Marvel Comics film Thor: Ragnarok (2017).