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What We Do in the Shadows


Stars: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford, Jackie Van Beek

Director: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement

Horror movie send-ups are nothing new.

Abbott and Costello took on the full bestiary of Universal monsters, Bob Hope met The Ghost Breakers and Martin and Lewis were Scared Stiff. There were Gremlins, The Addams Family Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers, Cockneys vs Zombies, Young Frankenstein, The Little Shop of Horrors and, of course, the great British horror comedy, Carry on Screaming to name but a few.

Now screenwriters/directors/stars Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement have sunk their comic fangs deep into the genre throat, drunk deep and delivered possibly the funniest horror movie send-up ever.

The crazy, comic and enjoyably crude-at-times experts of a trio of varied vampires who share a flat Down Under in Darkest Wellington makes for a marvellous mockumentary that gives Christopher Guest and Company a bloody funny run for their money. Waititi is an 18th century dandy-style vampire, Clement is Vlad (Vlad the Poker since ‘Impaler’ already belongs to someone else) while Ben Frensham’s gaunt blood-sucker makes Nosferatu seem overweight by comparison.

Anyone who has ever shared a flat will find their ingenious zany adventures even more enjoyable. I speak from experience (not of vampires) but long ago as a medical student when I shared a flat with other aspirant doctors along with our skeletons, whose bones where usually scattered all around the place. Here Waititi is a neatness freak given to cleaning up bare bones, flash and blood after dirty dining by his flatmates.

There’s more than enough plot and great gags to go around and comic inspiration happily never runs out during the relatively short running time. This is one mockumentary that mocks ingeniously, frequently and very, very amusingly.

The Flight of the Conchords stars set up more than enough daffy sketches to appeal to both comedy seekers and genre buffs and decorate them with smart dialogue. My favourite was when the Undead gang head for a night out in Wellington (where they can only enter discos and such if they are invited (even eternal life has its setbacks) and run up against a gang of werewolves leading to the line “I can smell werewolves” followed by “Don’t catch fleas”. To say nothing of someone’s penis being turned into a snake, spaghetti that turns out to be live worms and an elderly lady who finally finds love with someone four times her age.

For my money (and yes, disgracefully, I betrayed the ‘critical profession’ by paying to see What We Do in the Shadows)... And, also for my money (and, no, I definitely would not pay to see it again) this New Zealand movie is infinitely cleverer and more entertaining than the extraordinarily overrated Down Under Australian shocker The Babadook).

Alan Frank

New Zealand 2014. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Colour.
85 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 01 Dec 2014