Deacon: "When you are a vampire, you become very... sexy!"
A horror mockumentary film released in 2014. A joint American-New Zealand production, it was written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, who also starred in the movie. The basic premise is that a camera crew has received unprecedented permission to film the private lives of a group of vampires living in a flat in New Zealand.
The film starred:
- Taika Waititi as Viago, a good-natured 379-year-old dandy
- Jemaine Clement as Vladislav, an 862-year-old former badass with a strong resemblance to a certain Transylvanian count
- Jonathan Brugh as Deacon, a 183-year-old douchebag
- Ben Fransham as Petyr, a terrifying 8,000-year-old monster with a strong resemblance to another famous vampire
- Cori Gonzalez-Macuer as Nick, a newly-minted vampire with a lot to learn about the ways of the undead
- Stu Rutherford as Stu, a totally normal guy
- Jackie Van Beek as Jackie, Deacon's suburban housewife-familiar, who takes care of daytime chores for Deacon and is really tired of waiting to become a vampire
- Rhys Darby as Anton, the profanity-hating leader of the local werewolf pack
Fans of "Flight of the Conchords" will note that Clement, Waititi, and Darby are stars or writers of that series.
Deacon: "I think we drink virgin blood because it sounds cool."
Vladislav: "I think of it like this. If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it."
We follow our antiheroes through several months in Wellington, New Zealand. Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr are comfortable, but they're hardly thriving. They argue over house chores (Deacon hasn't washed the dishes in five years), their fashion sense is the ultimate in tacky Eurotrash anachronism (they can't see their reflections, so mostly have no clue how they look), and their social lives are mostly nonexistent -- they only meet new people when they're about to eat them, and they can't even get into decent nightclubs because they can't convince the bouncers to offer them the all-important invitation inside.
Things change when the vamps chase one of their victims out of their house. It looks like he's gotten away until Petyr catches him and turns him into a vampire, too. This is Nick, a local hipster who finally gives the other vampires a chance to fit in with modern society. He knows some of the local bouncers and can get them to officially invite the vamps inside, finally giving them the opportunity to enjoy New Zealand's nightlife. Even more importantly, Nick's best friend is Stu, a software developer who introduces the vampires to modern technology, including the Internet and cell phones. Stu is incredibly mild-mannered and calm, completely unperturbed by the fact that supernatural creatures exist -- and the vampires love him so much, they just can't bring themselves to kill him.
Things are far from perfect, however. Nick's enthusiasm for vampirism has him telling everyone in the city that he's a vampire -- and that leads a vampire hunter directly to their door. And after that, the cops show up, attracted by the shrieking. This leads the other vampires to banish Nick from the house. Can everyone make up again before the social event of the season -- the Unholy Masquerade?
Vladislav: "Leave me to do my dark bidding on the internet!"
Viago: "What are you bidding on?"
Vladislav: "I am bidding on a table."
This is a spectacularly fun and funny movie. I know several people who I'm pretty sure aren't fans of horror movies, much less low-budget New Zealand film, but who are nevertheless huge fans of this movie, eagerly praising it as one of the funniest they've seen. And that opinion is generally shared by horror and vampire fans. Part of this is the great fish-out-of-water elements of vampires doing all the everyday things that the undead should never have to do -- waking up with alarm clocks, doing the dishes, vacuuming, looking up virgins on the Internet ("I don't think that she's a virgin if she's doing that," says Vladislav).
But they also do a lot of the things we expect from vampires, too. Rising from their coffins, shapeshifting, flying through the air -- and let's not forget killing people and drinking their blood. And while this is often extremely funny -- finicky Viago lays down towels around his victim to keep the couch and floor clean, but then hits an artery when he bites her and gets blood everywhere -- it also gives us a few moments of genuine horror, too. We get multiple scenes of vampires killing people, but we also get the unexpectedly tense scene at the Unholy Masquerade when the dozens of vampires and zombies in attendance realize that loveable Stu is human and would probably be delicious. And then the gang runs into the local werewolves again, ready to transform in the light of the full moon -- and they think Stu looks delicious, too. The entire end of the movie is a potent reminder of why normal people would desperately want to avoid being around monsters.
On balance, "What We Do in the Shadows" is more funny than scary -- but that's hardly a bad thing. It's one of the best vampire movies -- and one of the funniest horror-comedies -- in years. If you love horror, comedies, vampires -- or if you just need a palate-cleanser, so to speak, between the serious horror movies in your Halloween marathon -- you'll want to watch this movie.
Viago, holding a teacup in front of a mirror: "Ooooo, look! A ghost cup!"