Movie Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Movie Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Since the days of This Is Spinal Tap, the ‘mockumentary’ has earned a valued place in the compendium of genres that make up comedy. What We Do In The Shadows might not go up to ‘eleven’ on the amplifier, but it’s still likely to leave audiences laughing…and just maybe, thinking. What We Do In The Shadows […]

By Mark HadleyWednesday 3 Sep 2014MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Since the days of This Is Spinal Tap, the ‘mockumentary’ has earned a valued place in the compendium of genres that make up comedy. What We Do In The Shadows might not go up to ‘eleven’ on the amplifier, but it’s still likely to leave audiences laughing…and just maybe, thinking.

Movie Review: What We Do in the Shadows 
What We Do In The Shadows is a faked documentary sponsored by the New Zealand Film Commission on the lives of four vampires flatting together in the Wellington suburb of Te Aro. Viago, the most house-proud and organized of the undead quartet is 379 and hails from Europe. He followed a girl he’d fallen in love with to New Zealand where he met up with Vladislav, a Count Dracula clone from the middle ages, and Petyr the 8,000 year old Nosferatu-like vampire who inhabits their basement. The tear-away youngster Deacon (183) rounds out their group as the vampire most likely to leave his ‘leftovers’ around the house and least likely to do the dishes. 

What We Do In The Shadows is the creation of Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement and Boy director Taika Waititi, who each take a role in the farce. The meat of the plot hangs on the household’s inability to integrate their vampire lifestyle with 21st century New Zealand. They struggle to get into clubs because they have to be invited to enter a building, and live in squalor because they can no longer own slaves. There is an undead community of which they’re part, but a thousands years of relationship issues leads to an uncomfortable isolation. The inclusion of new vampire initiate Nick seems to be a step in the right direction but his Gen Y pride about his new ‘post-human lifestyle’ soon leads to dangerous outcomes.

Clearly What We Do In The Shadows isn’t aiming at any great insights into the nature of existence, unless it’s to say that we all have problems, even the blood-sucking immortals amongst us. What I found interesting though was the way it purported to show the ‘real life’ of vampires, if they actually lived today. Clearly Twillight is a sham – Shadows reminds us that long life doesn’t necessarily guarantee riches, security or even wisdom. In short, eternal youth isn’t the key to happiness. 

Shadows suggests that relationships are what will actually transform unending survival into eternal life – and I’m inclined to agree. By the end of the film Viago, Vladislav and Deacon have at least made their peace with the 21st century thanks to the new friendships they’ve made. However I think it doesn’t take much imagination to see them being in exactly the same situation with their new friends a hundred years from the end of the film, this time coping with the 22nd century. Eternal life isn’t an end in itself, but so long as we treat it as such it will inevitably include the sort of tedium What We Do In The Shadows suggests. It’s meant to be the backdrop for a greater relationship than any we currently experience on earth. Eternal life is supposed to unite us with the God, the source of all life. Consequently, it will always feel somewhat lifeless when He’s absent.  

Rating: M
Distributor: Madman
Release Date: September 4