What We Do In The Shadows

Director: Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement (2015)

This dead-pan mockumentary about flat-sharing vampires lacks sufficient bite to be funny.

Offering low-key, bone-dry humour, this undead oddity struggles to come to life and struggles with weak plotting and indulgent pacing.

It feels more like a series of thin sketches strung together than a fully realised feature film and it’s no surprise to learn it was based on a short film made by the same team.

Four vampires of varying age share a house. Viago (Taika Waititi) is a 317 year old Georgian dandy who organises the house. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is 862 and a medieval vampire in the Turk-skewering tradition. Petyr (Ben Fransham) is an 8,000 year old Nosfertu type who lurks rat-like and unspeaking in the cellar. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is a former travelling salesman who was turned by Petyr and a relatively youthful 183.

Viago’s faithful familiar (servant) Jackie (Jackie Van Beek) is increasingly disillusioned at her prospects of ever being turned into a vampire and is incensed when her dinner guest Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macue) jumps the queue. He slowly learns life as a bloodsucker isn’t as much fun as he first imagined.

Zombies and werewolves all appear at the Unholy Masquerade, an undead ball where Vladislav confronts his nemesis he refers to as The Beast.

Strip aside the vampires stylings and what’s left are some humdrum observations about four mundane middle-aged blokes sharing a house in genteel poverty and struggling to adjust to a changing world. Their vampire problems don’t inform their contemporary concerns or vice versa.

Jokes rely on mastering the internet and name-checking movies The Lost Boys, the Twilight franchise and Blade. They seek far too much comedy mileage out of unresolved domestic squabbles such as whose turn is it to do the washing up.

The strongest aspect of the production is the design by Ra Vincent whose shabby drawing room chic is complemented by deeply textured interior lighting by cinematographers Richard Bluck and D.J. Stipsen.

The use of shaky cam is unavoidable, the flying stunts are nicely realised and old-school blood splurts are enjoyably silly.

Writer-directors-actors Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement are both connected to The Flight of the Conchords. Completists of their work may be keen to see this but everyone else may decide to opt for a wooden stake through the heart instead.

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