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By Jarrod• 24 Jun 2014
Thanks to an impressive marketing campaign - spanning social media, online auctions, dating sites and even the controversial Wellington sign - it’s entirely likely that you’ve heard of What We Do In The Shadows. The low budget vampire mockumentary has achieved the sort of visibility usually reserved for big American blockbusters. The question is: does it live up to the hype? Is there some substance hiding behind all this style?
Thankfully the answer is an unequivocal “yes”. Writers and directors Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement have crafted an exquisite comedy film that is uniquely and unmistakably of New Zealand (and of Wellington in particular). They poke good natured fun at numerous Wellington institutions, and have a great time exploring the day-to-day difficulties of modern vampirism - like how you dress yourself when you can’t see yourself in the mirror, how you go out on the town when you can’t go anywhere uninvited, and what you do when your dietary restrictions mean you’re something of a messy eater.
In the unlikely event you’re not already familiar with it, What We Do In The Shadows presents itself as a fly-on-the-wall documentary about four vampires (Waititi, Clement, Jonny Brugh and Ben Fransham) all living together in suburban Wellington - happily enough, until a fifth, much younger vampire (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) is inadvertently recruited into the group. The newcomer’s recklessness - and his human best friend (Stu Rutherford) - force the older vampires to confront the modern world, and help drive them into conflict with some of the city’s other supernatural residents.
Some wonderful world-building goes on - there’s a real sense that we’re only being shown a small part of a wider underground community; and while in true mockumentary style the film is somewhat loosely plotted, it’s driven forwards nevertheless by winning and hilarious performances from the leads and the excellent supporting cast (Jackie van Beek, as a human retainer of one of the vampires, is particularly good).
Most importantly: it’s really, consistently, laugh-out-loud funny. Wellingtonians will appreciate the local in-jokes seeded throughout, but What We Do In The Shadows’ appeal is more than merely parochial - it stands up as one of the best and smartest comedy films in recent years.
What We Do In The Shadows (official site)