Sundance Review: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Imagine The Real World, but with centuries old vampires. That gives you the beginning of getting What We Do In The Shadows, a very funny and immensely charming mock documentary about a quartet of blood-suckers rooming together in Wellington, New Zealand. The group ranges from Petyr, who is six thousand years old and looks like Nosferatu to 180-year old Victorian dandy Viago (Taika Waititi, who co-wrote and co-directed with Jemaine Clement), and they’ve settled into a routine that gets disrupted when a douchey young guy who was supposed to be their next victim ends up getting vamped instead.
What We Do In The Shadows is pretty dumb, but in the best way (one joke has Jemaine’s medieval tyrant vamp, Vladislav the Poker, snapping at a roommate “Leave me to do my dark bidding on the internet!” It turns out he’s bidding on a table on eBay). There are a couple of classic lines - there’s a killer joke about sandwiches, believe it or not - but most of the film is gently funny. It feels like the sort of movie that grows on repeat viewings because the characters are so fun and warm. You like hanging out with these guys, watching them learn about the modern world and forge a friendship with a human computer engineer named Stu (Stuart Rutherford, whose minimalist blankness just about steals the whole damn movie). Each of the vampires is very silly, but also very lovable.
What makes What We Do In The Shadows is the amount of great lore in the film; there’s vampire history and a rivalry with a pack of werewolves (led by Rhys Darby) and lots of internally consistent, very funny supernatural stuff. There’s the expected Twilight jokes, but the main characters find them just as irritating as we do - this is the kind of vampire film where all the vamps have Eastern European Dracooola accents.
Shaggy and amiable, What We Do In The Shadows is made by people who actually get and understand the old-fashioned horror conventions they’re toying with. It’s funny and filled with great characters who you could definitely hang with for a century or two. It's the kind of movie that will definitely become a regular revisit - I can imagine watching this film a dozen more times.