“What We Do in the Shadows” begins its theatrical run in Houston at Sundance Cinemas and Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park starting today.
“What We Do in the Shadows” is a fake vampire documentary by Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) and Taika Waititi (“Green Lantern,” “Eagle vs Shark”). The documentary crew follows four vampires; Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), and Petyr (Ben Fransham). The vampires not only struggle with day-to-day vampire needs like feeding and avoiding sunlight, but also have difficulty adjusting their egos to comfortably live together in one flat. In addition to clashing personalities, the vampires are also preparing for an undead gathering known as The Unholy Masquerade. Meanwhile, Deacon develops a rivalry with Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a recently turned vampire who just wants to be accepted by other vampires, is a bit too open about his blood-sucking status, and is unable to understand why everyone prefers the friendship of Nick’s human best friend Stu (Stuart Rutherford).
What this comedy lacks in budget is more than made up for with its ingenious writing. This is a group of characters consisting of individuals who are completely different from one another. Viago is old fashioned and meticulous, Deacon is rebellious and spontaneous, Vladislav is perverted and out of his element, Petyr is like this prehistoric fossil of the evolution of vampires over the years, and Nick is so overcome with the thrill of becoming a vampire that he lets that shout over reasoning and logic. Everyone is drawn to Stu because he’s soft spoken, mild mannered, and easy to get along with. There’s also Jackie (Jackie van Beek), Deacon’s servant who is persistent about Deacon finally making her immortal.
The film juggles the documentary aspect, vampire humor, horror homage, and clever comedy quite well. Playing with selecting a victim, draining their blood, hypnotism, and not having reflections is something the film has fine-tuned to perfection. It’s even able to take soft jabs at werewolves and zombies in legitimately humorous fashion. The humor is more of a tribute to the source material than a flat out mockery, which is one of the reasons the film is so enjoyable. The “dark bidding” bit may be the crown jewel of “What We Do in the Shadows,” but accidentally biting the main artery, a bat fight, and attempting to eat human food are also quite hysterical.
According to most folklore relating to vampires, they cannot be photographed. “What We Do in the Shadows” completely ignores this little detail and allows snapshots of these eccentric characters to be taken at every turn. It doesn’t really tie into how entertaining the film is, but it’s just an odd detail to alter since so much time is given to absent reflections and how to get ready for a night on the town without one.
The only flaw “What We Do in the Shadows” could possibly have is that it ends prematurely. The characters are so much fun to be around that you could easily spend more than three hours soaking in their wild antics, which saddens you greatly when the film ends after a mere 86 minutes. Superbly written with sharp, on the cuff humor, fantastic characters, and a well-polished story completely in tune with its source material, “What We Do in the Shadows” is an uproarious horror comedy that’s every bit as funny as “Shaun of the Dead,” “Tucker and Dale vs Evil,” and “Zombieland.”