The premise of this film is more than a little zany — a mockumentary about four vampires in a Wellington flat share.
It’d be a lot more zany if it wasn’t tempered by the perfect execution of that Kiwi deadpan. Mockumentaries, vampires — in less capable hands the lampooning would seem dated (see 2010’s Vampires Suck for a failed attempt to cash in on the vampire zeitgeist), but in What We Do in the Shadows, there’s a wonderful sense that the directors Taika Waititi and Flight of the Conchords’, Jermaine Clement were just sitting around one night when one of them said “Hey what if we made a film about…”.
This whole lo-fi sensibility both elevates and endears the comedy and is extremely fitting given the constant railing of the characters’ own self-regard— undermined by shots of the undead begrudgingly washing dishes or riding the city bus.
One real success of this film was that it avoids being plotless and ambling— no small feat in the world of independently produced comedies. Things are nicely shaken up by the reluctant induction of Rick into the flat share, a thoroughly normal, obnoxious guy in his late twenties.
Rick’s utter normalcy contrasted with the knowingly immoderate characterisation of the vampires provides for perhaps some of the funniest moments in the film. His confessional to the camera crew about how, as a vampire, he can no longer have chips, his ‘favourite meal’ was a particular stand out moment in understated hilarity.
In the previews played beforehand, an ad for the new Dumb and Dumber film played which inevitably gets the viewer thinking about cult comedy franchises— but a comparison is pretty hard to draw. What We Do in The Shadows is really idiosyncratic, it’s certainly funny but the humour is definitely more closely related to TV shows, like Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights High and obviously, Flight of the Conchords. This, along with the fact that the premise is undoubtedly stretched a little thin makes you wonder: would this have worked better as a TV series?