Review: What We Do In The Shadows

what-we-doA documentary following four flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles-like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. Hundreds of years old, the vampires are finding that beyond sunlight catastrophes, hitting the main artery, and not being able to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection-modern society has them struggling with the mundane.


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From the moment foppish vampire Viago (Taika Waititi) amiably introduces the camera crew, and thereby the viewer, to his fellow vamp housemates it is clear we are in the hands of filmmakers who understand both comedy and vampire cinema. Besides Viago, we meet Vladimar (Jermaine Clement), who is the embodiment of early 70’s Hammer vampires, all passion and libido, Deacon, (Jonathon Brugh), a fairly new vampire still getting to grips with his sleeping arrangements, and Petyr (Ben Fransham), the Nosferatu ancient vampire in the cellar. Each character is well constructed, and importantly for such a film, eminently likeable.

The characters all have their Achilles heels, whether unfinished business with ‘beasts’ from their pasts, dealing with the inevitable ageing and eventual death of non-turned loved ones, or just an aversion to the washing up or cleaning their rooms. I’m looking at you, Petyr. Much of the film is centred on normal day to day housemate problems but with the vampire complication making everything more difficult. After all its difficult going clubbing if the doormen wont invite you in. A special mention goes to Stuart Rutherford playing Stu, the housemates human friend who becomes more and more in peril as the vampires have encounters with other vampires, and a pack of abstaining werewolves(Think Bruce the shark in Finding Nemo) , thee actor somehow builds a great deal of affection for the boring and mundane character.

Waititi and Clement somehow managed to write, produce and direct this, and on top of it all be vampires! If wearing so many hats took any toll on them, it certainly doesn’t show. While this is a vampire movie, it is shot as very much a fly on the wall documentary. The scares are few and far between, but when the guys lure some unsuspecting food source back to their suburban hideaway their attempt at escape is pretty tense. The scene both sets up the big change about to enter both the house and the housemates lives, and reminds us that these are vampires. Vampires can be dangerous. Pity so few contemporary vampire movies get that right, leaving it instead to this little New Zealand mockumentary.

So? Is it funny?

Well, I not only laughed so hard I thought I was going to cough up a lung (false alarm!) but that I made the whole row shake, lots. I laughed for so long my face muscles ached. There will be inevitable comparisons to Spinal Tap, but for once they are justified. If you are a horror fan and love This Is Spinal Tap then you should absolutely love this.

The filmmakers have created something here that creates real warmth and affection for these characters, we really care for them and I for one can’t wait to spend another hour and a half in their company.

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A friend described this as Spinal Tap with vampires. Thats a spot on assessment.

What We Do In The Shadows on the face of it is a one joke film. Vampires exist and a group all live together in an old house in New Zealand. A film crew make a fly on the wall documentary about vampires living in modern times.

While this may seem a little stupid as a premise, its from the men who made Flight Of the Concords, and the film was incredibly well written (and directed and acted by the leads!). A mixture of interviews, cut with fly on the wall footage of the day to day life. The film depicts the effect a newer, younger vampire (by about 400 years) Nick joining the group (played brilliantly by Cori Gonzalez-Macuer). A man who has only seen vampires through the movie screen. Nick brings the modern day into their life, introducing them to cameras (where they relied on drawing a sketch). Using the ages of the vampires against them, film is able to add a second layer to the ‘fish out of water’ dynamic already present to great comic effect.

A lot of documentary and found footage films in the horror genre have 2 inherent problems A – who is filming this, B – which sicko is actually cutting this together. Keep in mind when its a documentary as well at some point this is intended for people to see. The film docent go too far in danger deals with this expertly referencing the members of the crew when trouble is caused although it does seem a little contrived that there is a lack of compassion (or moral judgement) from the crew when filming the vampires ‘eating’.

Most importantly for a comedy this question is, ‘was it funny?’ Most definitely, to the point of tears. I really loved the movie. Repeatedly at points the laughter in the screen drowned out he film.

We watched this at Celluloid Screams in Sheffield where it pipped Dead Snow 2 to the Film of the Festival Award (which is voted on by the audience). It probably was close, but it was easy to see why so many loved this movie.



Well John and Mark have summed up the film pretty well, so for something a little different, as I’m not really going to say anything that hasn’t been said before.

So the best film at Celluloid Screams? Yes I would agree with that. Better than Dead Snow 2? Yes I think it is and that was my favourite comedy at Frightfest (though still extremely enjoyable on a second viewing at Celluloid). So it’s funny? Yes it’s achingly funny at times, as John said there might have even been tears of laughter. On the quad-poster there are 12 comments, it’s only 1 word, it just says “Hilarious”. Either a very cool piece of promotional work or setting the film up for one mighty fail.

Is it like Spinal Tap? I don’t know never seen it (much to Mark’s shock). I guess it is, John, his friend and the poster claim it is, so it might be. I’ve never even seen Flight of the Concords, so I have no idea how talented these people are. All I’ve got to go on is what I saw on the screen and it blew me away. It was just superb from the opening shot to the credit roll, I laughed more in this one film than I did in the all of the comedies I’ve seen at the cinema this year. They are obviously a very talented bunch (I may have to watch Concords now). They know their genre material as well, especially vampires, werewolves and yes witches as well, I’m even sure there might have been a demon in the mix as well.
The premise was brilliant; in fact it’s pure genius, just like the script which is full of comedy gold moments. It may become as quotable as The Lost Boys (which is one of my favourite comedy/vampire films) one day. 4 vampires sharing a house, being filmed for a documentary; having house meetings to discuss cleaning rotas and other house-sharing duties is one of the funniest scenarios I’ve seen in a long while. Though as good as the writing is you still need a decent set of actors to pull it off. The cast are simply outstanding, from the vampires; Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Taika Waititi, Jermaine Clement, Jonathon Brugh and Ben Fransham. With Stuart Rutherford playing a mortal man in way over his head with his new friends. Not to mention the leader of the werewolves Rhys Darby, I would have liked to have seen a little more of Darby’s werewolf gang. Actually an answer to that is in the runtime, it’s a fast paced 86 minutes, it never out stays it’s welcome, never overplays the jokes and so ultimately the joke never really wears thin.

Here’s another great piece of promotional work as well, instead of having a twitter feed just promoting the film, actually have the twitter feed from the 4 vampires, have a look at @DeliciousNecks it’s very good.

As Mark said there’s not much horror in it, but when it is it works extremely well. In fact it’s actually quite bloody at times, though sometimes it’s usually for hysterical effect more than horror.

It will be interesting to see what a “normal” cinema audience will make of it all, those that know their vampire films should really enjoy it, but the others might struggle with the raft of references thrown at them throughout the film.
You may have got the impression that we think What We Do in The Shadows is one of funniest films this year; well in quite a few years really. It is! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, well as much as we all did.



I was never a fan of FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, it was just a comedy that didn’t work with me, perhaps I didn’t quite “get” it so when I first heard that the team behind the show were behind this film it didn’t fill me with excitement. And what I found with this movie is much the same as the show, some of it was just lost on me and I couldn’t see what the fuss was all about.

The premise is as follows; a TV crew shooting a mockumentary follow a group of vampires who live together. As we initially meet Vladislav, Viago and Deacon then at first the references to vampires and vampire movies are initially funny but there comes a point as the movie progresses that it starts to become a little tiresome. The crew follow the three vampires plus Petyr (who lives in the basement) – a somewhat older and much more aggressive vampire. It all feels a little bit like a vampiric version of Father Ted. Feck!

As other characters are introduced I started to enjoy it more, Nick whom is bitten by Petyr starts to become a liability to the rest of them, Nicks human friend Stu was a star of the show for me as he always seem to have a face that says “how did I get caught up in this!”.

The real highlight though is the confrontation between the vampires and the werewolves, who in turn deserve their own movie. This is where it became really funny, to see the animosity between the two different types of creatures and where the werewolves are out in a park on a full moon and one of them gets shouted at for wearing smart jeans rather than something elasticated. Pure genius scriptwriting.

The movie does have a certain charm to it and whilst I might not have liked it as much as the other guys on here it isn’t a bad film, it just tires quickly but redeems itself as it goes on. Something I am happy to have seen but wouldn’t watch it again.

What We Do In The Shadows is out on 21st November in Cinemas.






35 thoughts on “Review: What We Do In The Shadows

  1. Totally agree about how funny, well written and well performed this film is. This was also my favourite film at Celluloid Screams, and in my view a much better film than Dead Snow 2. Great reviews guys, keep up the good work.

  2. Saw this tonight and loved it. Immensely funny, well performed and written. The sandwich line had me in stitches. Definitely the comedy of the year for me, and by the sounds of the people in the cinema it might just be for them as well.

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