What We Do in the Shadows

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Who should go see this movie? Well, fans of the great Christopher Guest mockumentaries; fans of Shaun of the Dead, fans of horror films, and people that like to laugh a lot when they pay to see a comedy. Basically, everyone should be going to see this. Drop everything, and head over to the Reading  Town Square or Hillcrest Landmark, which might only be carrying it for another few days.

This is the movie that Vampires Suck and Dark Shadows should’ve been. The reason it’s so funny is because the creators of the hysterical Flight of the Conchords are behind this. The film was written, co-directed, and co-starring Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.

It’s amazing to think this had a few problems finding distribution in the U.S. It’s baffling that it hasn’t even made $2 million at the box office yet.

The premise has four vampires living together and being filmed for a reality show. Of course, the film crew is wearing crucifixes and they’re told they won’t be eaten.

A clever intro gives us fun illustrations and shots of how each of the vampires of various ages have come to live in this house. The following scene shows their various sleeping quarters. It’s early on that you realize you’re in for a very special treat. You see, there might be some familiar tropes along the way, but there’s also a lot of original humor.

Who would’ve even thought about vampires bickering over who does more house work, and why one of them hasn’t washed the dishes in years.

One of the vampires, Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), looks like Keith Moon (The Who) and has that rock star/poet vibe. He’s a Lord Byron/Jim Morrison type. The young rebel (at almost 200 years old). He’s often getting on the nerves of Viago (Taika Waititi). He does most of the narrating, and he comes across as a neat-freak, Felix Unger type. Conchords star Jemaine Clement plays Vladislav, a Russian vampire who prefers torturing his victims.

In Flight of the Conchords, they had one groupie (Kristen Schaal), who followed them around. In this movie, they have a woman who cleans up after them, and is begging to be bit and turned into a vampire.

One dinner party goes terribly awry, and a young frat boy type (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), ends up joining their little group after being bit. He’s not just annoying, but also spills their secrets to anybody he meets. In one of many outrageous situations you don’t see coming, he has a best friend – a quiet guy named Stu (Stuart Rutherford). The crew doesn’t want to eat him, as tempting as it may be, because he’s a nice guy. And hell, he’s one of the few that can show them all this modern technology they aren’t familiar with.

I was already having a blast when the scene arrived showing the group come across a pack of werewolves that are trying to control their anger. They’re lead by Rhys Darby, the brilliant comedian who was the nutty manager in Flight of the Conchords.

This movie was just done so perfectly. They had improvised bits that worked great. They had ideas that were just brilliant. For example, after two versions of Let the Right One In, we all know vampires are supposed to be invited inside. This can cause a lot of problems when they want to go out and enjoy the nightlight, and no bouncer carding people in line is “inviting” them in.

There are funny visuals. One of those has the new vampire trying to figure out how to fly in through the window. Another scene shows a karate lesson, with one kick resulting in a vampire sailing across the room.

There are bizarre pranks, interesting roommate fights, and despite a small budget and weaker production values – it’s just flat out funny.

I have to give credit to a great soundtrack, too. We got Printz Board, Vivaldi, and for a movie to start with obscure folk singer Norma Tanega doing “You’re Dead (and not of this world)” is just exhilarating.

A few of the scenes are repetitive, but at an hour and a half, this never wears out its welcome and you’ll be shocked to find you actually care about these characters.

4 stars out of 5.



    • Josh Board

      Tilda Swinton is one of the best actresses working today. If I had my choice for any actress to appear in my movie, I’d take her over Meryl. So interesting and diverse in all her roles (catch her bizarre character in Snow Piercer). But now…I hated “Only Lovers Left Alive.” It’s a shame, because it was a great premise, and Jim Jamusch is an interesting filmmaker. It is funny you mentioned that movie, though. When writing this review, I completely forgot about that, and the vampire in that is a rock star and songwriter, so his character would’ve fit wonderfully into this movie; especially since it had a Spinal Tap vibe.

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