The myth of the modern vampire is admittedly a very fascinating one. Their existence is one of great power, but great loneliness–a need to be accepted by humanity, despite their deadly inhibitions against them. For the most part of the last decade, the mythic race has been defined by Edward Cullen’s brooding angst–morphing this generation’s perspective into a more romantic than fearful vision. But in all honesty, despite their mysterious sensuality, vampires are pretty f*cking goofy. What We Do in the Shadows exploits this notion to its fullest capacity, creating a mockumentary about the daily go-abouts of a troupe of vampires in New Zealand. The result is the smartest vampire movie since Let the Right One In and already one of the funniest movies of the year.
Written and helmed by kiwi funnymen Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Green Lantern), the faux-documentary follows four centuries-old blood-suckers living in a quiet Wellington suburb. They share chores, discuss their troubles with women, go out to clubs (what else is there to do when you can only go out at night?), trick the cops when they get called on for noise complaints and make all other kinds of merry around the town. The even get into a hilarious tiff with a group of rival werewolves led by fellow kiwi comedian Rhys Darby (Yes Man).
What We Do in the Shadows exploits this notion to its fullest capacity, creating a mockumentary about the daily go-abouts of a troupe of vampires in New Zealand. The result is the smartest vampire movie since Let the Right One In and already one of the funniest movies of the year.
In the same way that Jim Jarmusch’s moody, contemplative Only Lovers Left Alive reimagined vampires as city dwellers, seamlessly learning to assimilate into the modern urban society, What We Do in the Shadows finds a sweet spot between humanity and the supernatural. Where Jarmusch’s film bore its Detroit-cool fangs–Clement and co. guffaw with a menacing laugh that would make old Count Dracula’s belly ache. It takes the minutia of human life–the excitements and disappointments of the modern world–and plays them as the struggles of a vampire attempting to live in the 21st century. It’s an idea that should have already been explored, especially since vampires are the closest mythological creature to humans. Let the Right One In (and its under-appreciated 2010 American remake) did this, but in a very realistic and horrific way. The mockumentary style is so far from realistic, almost cartoon-like, that it gives the vampires a self-awareness that has been absent from the genre in recent years. Well, maybe in that Twilight parody Vampires Suck…although that movie probably did suck.
Each of the players are individually fantastic. Their deadpan delivery, the banter between the vampires, the differentiation in their characters, is the makings of a fantastic television show. Like many of the best documentaries, What We Do In Shadows begs for the world its subjects inhabit to be explored much deeper, here done Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap) style. There is a surprising amount of depth to a the explorations of love and aging that act as subplots. Some of these themes are explored with much more comical than dramatic, less mythological counterparts. That is the success of What We Do in the Shadows. It’s hilarious, for one, but there are so many mundane elements of daily life it sinks its teeth into (at least one vamp-pun, right? Ok, maybe two) with such acerbic wit that its hard not to love any moment of the film. Well-paced and relatively brief, it will be a search to find more joyous and lively comedy in theaters very soon.