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Whatever the hell you’re doing instead of watching What We Do in the Shadows, the funniest and most inexplicably overlooked film of 2014, it’s now time to stop.
A mockumentary about the Wellington, New Zealand undead and lycanthrope community from half of the geniuses behind Flight of The Conchord’s, Shadows is one of those movies that has already earned its status as a budding cult classic, but is deserving of so much more than that.
This is Spinal Tap for the Twilight generation, Airplane! with fangs, Monty Python’s Flying Bloodsuckers. This is the movie you need to be quoting with your friends over beers not tomorrow, not next week, but tonight.
At first glance, you might think the gimmick would give up only a handful of one-note gags. In reality, What We Do in the Shadows has more colors and surprises than the bloodsuckers on screen have victims. It’s a constantly surprising mix of horror, every type of humor, and even romance— the one element that sours so many vampire flicks but comes off here as surprisingly deft and touching.
The film begins with the daily travails of four very different vampires living in a New Zealand suburb. We watch as they deal with dirty dishes (“Vampires don’t do dishes!”), the pluses and minuses of torture and enslavement, and best practices for keeping the fresh blood of unwilling victims off the living room couch.
Basically, modern day vampires are not much different than a gone-to-seed 70’s supergroup finally getting their own Behind the Music episode, only their unusual situation forces them to share a flat. And let’s face it, it’s hard for four men to share a flat, even when they aren’t able to exist for eternity (just be sure to keep those blinds down).
There’s the still-kinky Vlad, a torture aficionado who, at age 862, may be the first one to figure out the point of Facebook’s “poke” function; Viago, a Felix-Unger-like fussbudget who still carries a flame for his mortal lover from decades ago; and Deacon, the self-described “bad boy” who likes to treat his fellow flat mates to erotic dances. (“When you become a vampire you become very… sexy!”) And let’s not forget Petyr, a Count Orlok type who hangs out in a crypt in the basement and gets to skip flat meetings because, well, he’s 8,000 years old. Their cloistered existence is upended when a newly-minted vampire with a Twitter account as well as his human software developer best friend (now that’s scary) try to become a part of their world.
There’s something decidedly New Zealand feeling about the humor here. Those who hail from Australia’s little cousin seem to derive a lot of humor from the folly of trying to fit in, and they revel in fiendish bits of word play. (“Just leave me to do my dark bidding on the Internet. What are you bidding on? I’m bidding on a table.”) It’s fitting that the movie is the collaboration of that country’s very brightest film comic talents, bringing together as directors and co-stars Conchords’ Jemaine Clement (he of DirecTV’s talking horse fame) and Taika Waititi, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind 2010’s Boy, the top-grossing film in the history of New Zealand.
Nothing comes quite the way you expect in What We Do in the Shadows, from the reveal of Vlad’s fearsome nemeses “The Beast” to the film’s surprisingly uplifting ending. It is a movie that’s as clever as it is touching, a treat equally delectable for those who love vampire movies and reality shows—the two genres it most aggressively goes after—and for those that absolutely despise them.
Basically, this is the ultimate comedy for anyone who has ever been in a roommate situation they couldn’t get out of. Turns out, there was a lot of humor in all those dirty dishes—it just takes an eternity to see it.