Funny without a shadow of a doubt
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (R13)
Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett
What We Do In The Shadows could have happened nearly ten years ago.
Back in 2005 Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement wrote and directed a short film, also called What We Do In The Shadows.
It was an hellaciously funny short mockumentary about a group of vampires living in a grotty central Wellington flat. There was a plan at the time to develop that film into a feature. Two years earlier Waititi had made the wonderfully simple Two Cars, One Night, which would go all the way to an Academy Award nomination.
Amazingly, it was only a year before then Waititi had borrowed his flatmate's video camera for a weekend because he "wanted to have a go at making some films".
At the same time, Clement's Flight of The Conchords collaboration with Bret McKenzie was attracting international interest.
Before what might have been a modest indie-success story could be developed, the creative team's careers went respectively ballistic. And it's only now that the two friends have had the time together to make one of their oldest dream-projects.
I've seen What We Do In The Shadows three times now, twice at its finished length, and once as a far longer rough-cut, and every time it has made me hoot with laughter, and shake my head at the sheer cleverness of the film's elaborate on-going gags.
The story follows a gaggle of inner-city vampires. They share a rundown house, bicker over the dishes and cleaning roster, and fall out badly when a new vampire on the scene shows them up for the tragic squares they are.
This is more The Young Ones than True Blood, transplanted to the antipodes, and given fangs. Clement's Vlad, Waititi's Viago, Jonathan Brugh's Deacon - who pretty much devours every scene he gets - and Ben Fransham's Petyr are the corpuscle craving flatties. Across town, Rhys Darby leads a pack of hilariously uptight werewolves. Cori Gonzalez-Macuer and his deadpan best friend Stu are the new arrivals who shake up the boys undead domesticity. Jackie Van Beek's much put upon vampire-wannabe is the source of some truly cutting gags about co-dependent relationships.
Some scenes and characters work better than others, but nothing falls flat, and the best moments are terrifically good. The insertion of two belligerently naive police officers is the trigger for an exquisitely well written send up of every police "reality" show you ever sat through, and there's enough Wellington-specific treats here to ensure this film will be a hometown favourite long after the rest of the world have moved on.
What We Do In The Shadows is a truly funny film. Like the best of Clements' and Waititi's work, it gets its humour from wry observation, a lovely sense of the everyday absurd, and an underlying poignancy that connects us in surprising ways to fantastical characters. By combining two of recent cinema's most overused tropes, Clement and Waititi have made something idiosyncratic, unique, and utterly Kiwi. Bravo.
The Dominion Post