What We Do in the Shadows | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

What We Do in the Shadows

Alice Williams reviews 'the vampire mockumentary you never knew you needed', What We Do in the Shadows...

Written and directed by its stars - Jemaine “Flight of the Conchords” Clement and Oscar-nominated Taika Waititi - What We Do in the Shadows is a belly achingly funny twist on the so often overused mockumentary film format.

What we do 1Following a quartet of European vampires, ranging in age from as young as 183 to roughly 8000, the film documents their trials and tribulations as they try to live a normal life in a flat-share in Wellington, New Zealand. As the film begins we meet pedantic former dandy Viago (Taika Waititi), whose hand snakes its way out of his coffin to press snooze on a 6pm alarm. He then proceeds to rise and heads to wake his other housemates; Deacon (Jonathon Brugh), the youngest, a rebellious ‘cool’ vampire, Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), a ‘perverted’ medieval vampire, and Petyr (Ben Fransham), an ancient, mute, Nosferatu-style vampire who lives behind a stone slab in the basement and has never done his share of the chores. Hundreds of years old, the vampires are finding that beyond sunlight catastrophes, rivalries with werewolf gangs, and not being able to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection, modern society has them struggling with the mundane like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.

what we do 2The cameras follow the group in the lead-up to the biggest event in the undead calendar: The Unholy Masquerade Ball, where not only vampires but zombies, banshees and demons all go to party. Complications within the group ensue when Petyr bites and transforms an intended victim, the young, cocky Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) who moves into the flat and brings his loveable human friend Stu. The group quickly take a liking to Stu and he becomes almost the Bella Swan among the vampires, though not all of the community are happy about his presence.

From beginning to end the film is infectiously silly, and full of relatively obvious humour which in no way detracts from its overall brilliance. The largely improvised script is clever, witty, and constantly hilarious; while you would in no way suggest that the film is particularly profound or what we do 3sophisticated, there is at least a laugh a minute and it constantly feels fresh, exciting and charming, which is surprising given its basis in as unprepossessing an idea as a largely plotless vampire mockumentary.

If you’re a fan of The Office and Flight of the Conchords, I have no doubt that you’ll agree that this has to be one of the funniest comedies of the year. To give What We Do in the Shadows the highest possible praise, it has to be said that it is the funniest film to come out of New Zealand since Peter Jackson’s Braindead; though I was embarrassed at myself for giggling quite so much (in both this and Braindead), I genuinely can’t wait to watch it again.


Nine out of Ten

Alice Williams 

First year JH English Language and English Literature student (@AliceRWilliams)


24th December 2014 at 4:00 pm

Last Updated

22nd December 2014 at 7:59 pm