Follow the lives of Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav - three 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 like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.
A movie about vampires doesn’t sound too promising to me. But this one is directed by Taika Waititi, so at least it should be different. Waititi finds ways to take a fresh approach to very different subjects in his movies. When it works it pays off (for instance his 2010 movie Boy), and when it doesn’t (2011’s The Green Lantern comes to mind), it at least still makes his movies worth watching.
What We Do in the Shadows is a documentary (oops, mockumentary) about a group of vampires in Wellington, NZ. It chronicles their lives as flatmates leading up to the annual ball where zombies, werewolves, witches, vampires and other assorted undead and supernatural beings that apparently roam the streets of Wellington get together.
Waitiki plays a lead role as Viago, a dandyesque vampire from the 1700s; he is the main ‘host’ of the mockumentary, but we also get one-on-one interviews with his flatmates Vladislav and Deacon and selected other characters; not with housemate Petyr, who as 8,000 year old vampire doesn’t seem to talk. All kinds of stuff happens, but to be honest, the plot itself is not that relevant – it is all about the little interactions between the different players. Apparently being undead and hundreds to thousands of years old doesn’t make being flatmates much different and they fight and nag about the same little niggles students would – Deacon hasn’t done the dishes in 5 years, Petyr leaves rotting skeletons lying on the floor, that kind of stuff.
It is a very dry and and at times very funny movie. Admirably, Waititi manages to keep that feel throughout the movie, and the acting of all the leads befits the atmosphere perfectly. The movie is only 85 minutes but for me the last third was somewhat too slow, but don’t let that deter you, it is worth watching – the comedy is well set up with lots of one-liners that have been set up well without the predictability of your average American sitcom. This movie doesn’t need a laugh track to help you find the funny bits.
Best watched with a few mates and a few beers.