When a genre becomes played out, the only real thing left to do is bust it wide open with an all parody. What We Do In The Shadows finds itself fortunate in this regard, as the vampire movie craze is gasping for air as shows such as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries start fade into their Twilight years, while the found footage genre feels more and more trite with each passing go at it. With all of that, along with cult comedy icon Jermaine Clement and frequent collaborator Taika Waititi behind the camera, all the ingredients for a wonderful comedy are certainly locked and loaded. Does it deliver?
Vampires Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jermaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham) live together in a small flat in Wellington. Presumably having spent enough time anguishing over the horrors of living forever, they’ve decided to just have a good time together instead (presuming Deacon has finally gotten around to washing the blood stained dishes) , and have hired a documentary crew to film them as they go about their nights. Their lives do become a touch more complicated when they accidentally turn Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a bro-y dolt they try to kill one evening into a vampire, and have to teach him the responsibilities that come with his affliction.
What We Do In The Shadows does get some major points for originality. While Vampires have certainly been lampooned before, never has there been such a naturalistic approach to it. If these guys weren’t mutilating unsuspecting victims, or making servants mow their lawn with the promise of eternal life, one might even forget they are creatures of the night at all. This stems a great deal from the warm chemistry of the three leads, who all dive deeply into their roles and clearly have a whole ton of fun (Clement in particular). We get the sense that these guys love each other in their own morbid way, and we get to know quite a bit about how their past tragedy has shaped them, even if they’ve had plenty of time to get over it.
Unfortunately, as this is a comedy, I have to judge it on how funny I found it, and most of the jokes in this simply didn’t hit for me. It’s certainly not completely unfunny, with some of the character dynamics working, and a particularly unique take on werwolves nearly always scoring, but for the most part, this thing is swinging and missing. A lot of it just feels like extended sketch comedy, with these guys throwing every idea for a joke they have at the screen without much holding it together. It comes off as mugging a lot of the time, and that kind of thing just rarely appeals to me.
Ultimately this fairly weak structure comes from the need to make this a found footage film, and if Clement and Waititi had dropped that idea, they really could have something here. This needed a real story driving this world forward, to really highlight these character interactions and flesh out the universe. That way, even in the scenes where the jokes aren’t quite hitting, the film could ride higher off of it’s originality. As it is, it just feels like a bunch of friends got together and made a really expensive home movie.
This certainly isn’t a film that made me mad. The company is clearly trying here, and I can say that for the majority of the people I saw this film with, it was firing on all cylinders. It just didn’t quite gel for me, which is a shame, because I certainly wanted to have fun with this. With that said, I would certainly recommend checking it out and making a decision for yourself, while I go and find a different comedy that will hopefully work for me more.
Right now the only option seems to be Hot Tub Time Machine 2…this is looking grim.