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What We Do in the Shadows

My 16 year old self would consider this downright blasphemous, but there is no denying that streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu have emerged as the modern equivalent to the local video stores that dotted the map in every town in America for the better part of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. 

This is coming from someone who was the quintessential “video store guy.”  I won’t get into exactly what actions led me to place myself in this coveted, and wholly forgettable category, but the point is, I loved being at the Village Video.  Now, in virtually every conceivable way, you can get the same in-store experience from the comfy confines of your couch.  You can browse to your heart’s content, and when you finally find something worth watching, you won’t have to worry about the VHS tracking being messed up, or a disc being scratched.  The movie (or show) you want to take in won’t always be “out” whenever you want to see it.  Best of all, you can stumble upon gems that you were completely unaware of, thereby opening doors that you never knew existed.  

What We Do in the Shadows: A

The reason I lay all of this out there, is because recently, I was perusing the movies on Amazon Prime, and stumbled across a flick that a buddy of mine had been recommending for months.  Thanks to the wonders of technology, here was the movie, just begging me to press play.   

Set in New Zealand, the phenomenally hilarious “What We Do in the Shadows” is a mockumentary that is bursting with laughs, absurdity, and ingenuity.

Co-directed, co-written, and co-starring Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, “What We Do in the Shadows” introduces audiences to four vampires named Viago (Waititi,) Vladislav (Clement,) Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham,) who share a flat in Wellington.  Aged 379, 862, 183, and 8,000 years old respectively, they navigate the perils of being a demon in the modern world.  They like the same things many “normal” people do like dancing, playing instruments, and going out to bars.  Unfortunately, they also have a penchant for blood-sucking, a contentious relationship with werewolves, and an affinity for the taste of human blood.  Addressing the camera directly for the sake of a documentary, they hope to present a fair representation of how their daily lives work, and show that just because they are centuries old, doesn’t mean that they can’t fit in and adapt when the need presents itself.

There is something special about “What We Do in the Shadows,” and at times, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is.  Outwardly, it seems like just another your typical mockumentary fare, but throughout the entire duration of the film, it is uproariously funny, and stuffed with enough jokes, sight gags, and deadpan humor that it separates itself from its comedic contemporaries.  Toying with the conventions that a century worth of vampire flicks have unleashed upon the world, Clement and Waititi constantly find clever ways to pay homage while remaining true to their hundreds of predecessors.  From their centuries old style of dress, to their sudden spats of reprehensible violence, the characters are memorable and the performances provided by the cast are largely unforgettable.

There is plenty of credit to go around, but Clement and Waititi deserve an endless amount of praise.  The flat that the vampires live in is almost a character in itself, and serves as the perfect encapsulation of why this production succeeded beyond all measurable expectations.  With its peeling walls, dank basement, crusty tombs, and blood-soaked interiors, it lends an air of surprising authenticity that, despite its subtlety, was an absolute necessity.

I’m certain there have been other comedies in recent years that have made me laugh as much, if not more, than “What We Do in the Shadows,” yet at the moment, I couldn’t possibly name one.  It is the type of film that relies heavily on a bloated budget or A-list star appeal.  In many ways, it only adds the charm and the overall feel of the production, lending an air of authenticity that is essential to any great mockumentary.

What We Do in the Shadows: A

I’m certain there have been other comedies in recent years that have made me laugh as much, if not more, than “What We Do in the Shadows,” yet at the moment, I couldn’t possibly name one.

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.