Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Director(s)Jemaine Clement
Taika Waititi
Principal CastTaika Waititi as Viago
Jemaine Clement as Vladislav
Jonathan Brugh as Deacon
Ben Fransham as Petyr
Release Date2014
Running Time 85 minutes

This mockumentary about vampires is less a horror movie and more a comedy making it the perfect kind of flick to show to friends who despise anything that’s too scary, while keeping with a horror aesthetic. The “documentary” follows a group of four vampires -Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr – as they go through their day to day activities as creatures of the night who have adapted to modern human society.

Each member of the vampire flat is distinctive and funny in their own way. I love how much I can remember about each of their personalities, which is just an indication of how well they’re written out. Viago is responsible, romantic, and the opposite of assertive. His calm personality completely goes against the idea of what we think a vampire is which makes watching him deal with bloodthirsty matters all the funnier. Petyr is a Nosferatu like vampire who’s completely traditional but hangs out with the “youngsters” as an older respected member. Watching his modern interactions with them is cute and endearing. Deacon is rebellious and feels exactly like a teenager who’s spent a bit too much time watching prank videos on YouTube. Watching his take on human pranks with vampire twists keeps the gags fresh and unique. Finally, Vladislav (my favorite) is like a Bram Stoker kind of Dracula, but with a lot of humorous gimmicks that keep him feeling like a dark absurdity as opposed to something scary. As you would imagine, their personalities lend to a plethora of interesting conversations and watching them convene about affairs and deal with each other is simultaneously reminiscent of the way we talk to our own friends but absurd with how far the vampires take certain things.

Waititi and Clement really have a knack on pop culture understandings of vampires and take great liberty in accentuating those perceptions to make truly memorable comedic moments. Werewolves and other creatures of the night show up throughout the movie and are made to play their own respective comedic beats. The interactions between all of them feels like a love letter to creature features all around. I love how seamless the creature world has been integrated into the human world. For example, vampires have to follow rules about being invited in, so they have certain vampire run locations where a bouncer will greet them in , fulfilling the rule. Moments like these give the movie a genuine novelty. Every interaction between a monster and a human is bound to tickle someone’s funny bone and there’s more than one moment that had me laughing to tears.

At the heart of the movie is a story about judging people , in this case creatures, unfairly. Often times we approach situations with a certain prejudice which colors our interpretation of why they’ve done certain actions or who they “really” are. We can’t begin to understand one another unless we actively reach across the aisle and try and see eye to eye. The movie explores this idea multiple times, never coming as preachy or corny. It’s just an authentic feel good time about trying to see the best in each other.

I only have one big issue with the movie. To some of ya’ll it might come off as a bit nit-picky, but for me it made the grounded realistic feeling of the movie a lot harder to get into. The movie goes along with the idea that vampires can’t be captured in mirrors because they don’t have reflections. There’s even a gag about it confirming that its “cannon”. However, if that’s the case then the documentary crew wouldn’t be able to record the group at all. Given how clever the movie was about everything else, I thought they’d either make a joke about how the mirror thing was an absurd human myth or come up with some roundabout way of circumventing it (ex: mirrors traditionally used silver which was bad for the vampires as evidence by the movie, so the cameras don’t use silver mirrors…etc ). I can forgive it because it’s the only big issue with the documentary style, which otherwise looks spot-on and like a convincing documentation of supernatural phenomena as if it was occurring in real life, but it stands out given how immaculate every other aspect of the movie feels.

Report Card

TLDRWhat We Do in the Shadows is a humorous interpretation to the monsters that lurk in our nightmares. The way it humanizes vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night while retaining the characteristics that make them memorable to us is genuinely impressive. The characters are engaging and the humor really hits, so feel free to show this movie at events. It’s a real crowd pleaser.
Grade A

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