Imagine pitching a film with the statement “The Young Ones with vampires” and you get a pretty accurate description of What We Do in the Shadows. From the moment Viago (Taika Waititi) levitates from his coffin and greets the film crew there to document his life with a friendly smile and we witness a heated argument between the housemates about their dirty dishes – we know this is no ordinary vampire film.
There’s noble gent Viago, violent yet oddly sensitive Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), ‘young’ rebel Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and the silent, seriously creepy Petyr (Ben Fransham), who resembles the iconic vampire Nosferatu from the classic German silent film.
The characters are up-to-date with their vampire pop culture, directly referencing cult classic The Lost Boys; “I didn’t realise you enjoyed eating worms.” This is combined with several comic spins on the aforementioned Nosferatu. But there’s no Twilight-style vegetarianism in this household and we accompany the housemates on their nightly ventures into Wellington to find new victims. Yet even this doesn’t make the characters any less likeable (if this ever makes you feel guilty, just remember watching a film about vampires) and I still want to hang out with them – if I could get their assurance they wouldn’t kill me.
All this is thanks to the constant laugh-out-loud moments made so hilarious by the actors’ understated delivery. They turn the bloodsuckers into relatable and surprisingly ordinary characters. Their disputes about the cleaning rota is something anyone whose ever flat-shared will recognise.
Adding a comic twist to horror is nothing new (think Shaun of the Dead or The Cabin in the Woods) but Waititi and Clement make it new, demonstrating how they are two of the most original, talented and exciting filmmakers working in cinema today.