The daily drudgery of being a vampire in WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS

Film premiered at Sundance 2014
Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

Ever since the “Twilight” franchise the label “vampire film” seems to invite derision or at the very least weariness, from viewers who believe that stories of vampires have long outstayed their welcome. And yet, regardless of the ambivalence towards vampire films there’s no shortage of filmmakers willing to take a stab at them. The results run the gamut from the painfully mediocre to the prodigiously inventive. The latest installments of the “Underworld” series likely belong to the former while films like “Let the Right One In” and “Only Lovers Left Alive” have been hailed by critics for breathing life into a well-worn cinema staple.

And yet despite misgivings about them the fact is that, vampire films are so prevalent nowadays that everyone seems to know the conventions and themes surrounding this popular supernatural creature. Anyone can readily recite features associated with vampires, facts such as an aversion to garlic, crosses, daylight, and holy water. The need to be invited in residences. The fact that their eternal youth unwittingly leads to boredom in life, a theme that many vampire films tap into. And of course, the fangs and the urge to bite. All of these attributes are so engrained in popular imagination that it becomes especially delightful when a film is able to use all these vampire film cliches and then turn them on their head. And that is exactly what the film “What We Do in the Shadows” does, with great wit.

Film was shot on location in Wellington, New Zealand

“What We Do in the Shadows,” a mockumentary-horror comedy, is a film that “interviews” and films four male vampires living as flatmates in contemporary New Zealand. “What we do” is based on an original screenplay by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, creators of “Flight of the Conchords.” There is Viago, the fastidious dandy, and Deacon, the bad boy of the group who has refused to help out with the household chores and left the blood-stained kitchen dishes unwashed in the past five years. There is Vladislav, described as Viago quite matter-of-factly to be a pervert, who is fond of torturing people in his torture chamber. And then there is Petyr, who is older than the other vampires and behaves less, let’s say, “humanely” than the other three. “What We Do” discloses how vampires grapple with the hassles of the predator lifestyle, such as the struggles of getting dressed properly when you’re faced with the conundrum of having no reflection in the mirror. And then there’s the mess you always have to clean up after you’ve killed your victims, a mess that no amount of painstakingly spread towels and newspapers spread by Viago can avoid.

There is much to be commended on a film that manages to be consistently hilarious and entertaining from start to finish. The whole film is a ridiculous, laugh-out-loud romp that is also capable of showing emotional sobriety during its graver moments. With “What We Do” co-writers and filmmakers Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (they also play leading roles in the film) have created one of the most successful blends of horror and comedy since “Shaun of the Dead.” The plot of the film may be less urgent than “Shaun” in pacing but both films share a similar deadpan humor and a flair for mixing gruesome horrors with the dullness of everyday life. More praises can be lavished upon the film, but simply put, “What We Do in the Shadows” wit and inventiveness qualifies it as one of the best forays into the vampire subgenre lately.

“What we do in the shadows” is playing at the Landmark Sunshine in New York and select theaters around the country.

Produced by: Unison Films, Defender Films, Funny or Die.