Film Review: What We Do in the Shadows (New Zealand, 2014)


Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement has found himself with steady work since the series about a pair of quirky New Zealand musicians living in New York came to an end. It’s seen him garner roles in big budget films (Men in Black 3, Rio) and balance that with some projects of his own. Often, he’s paired himself with longtime collaborator Taika Waititi, as we saw in Eagle vs Shark, and now the two have united forces once again – this time as co-directors for the first time – for the hilarious mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows.

The film follows a simple premise, following in the design of the great Mockumentarian Christopher Guest (Best In Show, Waiting for Guffman), and follows a group of Vampires living in Wellington, New Zealand. Played by co-directors and writers Clement (Vladislav) and Waititi (Viago), alongside Jonathan Brugh (Deacon), the Vampires provide commentary on their day-to-day life, as well as that of everyday society. Yes, they even reference Twilight along the way.

The film’s narrative moves along with the introduction of a young, new vampire into the group, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer (Nick), who brings the realities of the modern, real world to the centuries old vampires. This sees them spending time with humans (and NOT eating them… well, most of the time), reuniting with old vampiric flames and hanging out in the hottest nightclubs of Wellington. They even get to spend time with their not-so-much-friends the Werewolves, who also live in Wellington, and are fronted by fellow Conchord Rhys Darby. If you’re a fan of Clement and Waititi’s previous works, this film will be everything that you hope and more.

I mean I don’t know about you, but I was sold on premise alone. It’s hilarious at just about every turn. It brings about every story, myth and legend of the vampire and plays with it in effortlessly entertaining ways. It ditches the pomp and circumstance of the vampire craze that does seem to be sweeping our cinemas and televisions at the moment and has fun with it… just as it should be.

The only problem the film ultimately faces is in its simplicity. By the time you get halfway through the film, you do feel like most of the jokes have already been told, and it does drag. Even at 86 minutes, you could have probably shaved 10-15 minutes off pretty comfortably. Though that’s not to say you’re not laughing along the whole way. It’s hilarious from start to finish, and Clement, Waititi and all the vampires play their parts with total dry conviction and deliver what will undoubtedly be one of the funniest films of the year.


What We Do In The Shadows premiered at Sundance and this article comes from the original review on The Iris at SXSW (March 2014). The film is getting released in Australia this Thursday (September 4th) through Madman Films. The trailer can be viewed below:


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.