Hey, someone’s gotta pay the rent.
Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham) are all vampires who live and share a flat together, and like how most people get when living together for so very long, there’s always problems to be had. They don’t always get along and they mostly don’t know how to each hold their weight equally in a place that needs for them to be at their utmost attention. But there is one thing that they have in common, and that’s sucking other people’s blood. And for the most part, they’ve been doing just fine for so long, that it seems almost insane that somebody would swoop in and screw it all up. That’s when Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a random civilian that they all planned on killing, accidentally comes back to life and realizes that he too is a vampire, with all sorts of neat tricks to show off to those around him. This obviously causes a problem for the rest of the group, who would much rather like to be left in the dark where nobody knows who they are and makes them wonder they can stick it with Nick, or not.
Also, werewolves show up.
While this would all seem incredibly boring to hear a movie about werewolves, vampires, and some other infamous ghouls, the fact that this is done by the same crew who brought us Flight of the Concords, makes it a better watch than expected. In fact, way better. Because not only is the movie funny, but proves that you can use the found-footage, faux-documentary style to still enhance your story, even if the story itself does seem to be winking at the audience.
Now, it should be noted that What We Do in the Shadows isn’t necessarily trying to re-invent the wheel of horror-comedies, but is more or less, just trying to make its audience laugh, while also aspiring to create a new kind of tale where vampires can be considered “likable” – hell, maybe even “cool”. Even if the movie doesn’t intend to make these characters pop-out at us as ones we’ll be remembering till the end of our days, they still create a nice landscape for a bunch of funny bits between characters that we want to see more interactions of. Basically, when you put an old-school, follow-the-leader type of rule-maker, you generally want to see them clash heads with the hot-shot, rebel-with-a-cause bad-ass. Even if they do seem a bit cartoonish, it’s still exciting to watch and can even add to more laughs than expected.
Which is one of the harder problems with reviewing comedies. Well, let me rephrase that: reviewing comedies that are actually good.
See, it’s very easy for me to go on and on and on about a comedy that not only kept me laughing much, if at all, but was offensive and left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Those movies are, generally, fun and easy to review because they actually bring a lot of thought to the table as to why something didn’t work out the way it was intended to, and what could have been the main cause for it. If there’s any example, check out my review for Let’s Be Cops; one of the more terrible comedies I’ve seen in recent time, and even though it’s incredibly thin on its surface, I still found many ways to talk more about it and dig deeper than just simply saying, “Movie not funny”.
With What We Do in the Shadows, a good comedy, it’s a difficult task for me to go on about it without digging deeper than I need to. The movie isn’t trying to make a point, it doesn’t have any sort of secret agenda, and it sure as hell isn’t trying to rile-up the more sappy parts of our emotions – it’s just a comedy, being just that. It’s a funny one, at that, but a comedy that works nonetheless and is mostly helped by the fact that it hardly ever steps away from its story and just continues to deliver the jokes, visual-gags, and crazy non sequiter’s, with reckless abandon.
Maybe it’s not as hilarious as I have made it out as being, but it’s still worthy of a watch, especially if you’re already a fan of Concords to begin with.
But, believe it or not, there is some surface to be looked at underneath all of the gags and laughs, which is to say that the movie actually does go for the gut in looking at its characters’ lives and why they’re worthy of us spending time with them in the first place. The fact that they’re vampires may put us in the spot of not wanting to like, or even sympathize with them, solely due to the fact that they kill people and suck their blood for a living. It’s easy to dismiss them automatically after that, but the movie pulls back the curtain at times and shows that there’s something sad and miserable to these characters’ lives and the existences they’re forced to lead.
Sure, some of that is put on-hold to make room for a funny-clothes gag, but for the most part, we get an idea of who these characters are and why they even matter. Which is to say that, surprisingly, the one who stands-out among the rest of the group is a human by the name of Stu, played so plainly-to-perfection by Stu Rutherford. Stu, the character, is the one sole human that these groups of vampires have no problem of being around, and not killing; they treat him with kindness and respect, as you would to any friend. Because of this, Stu easily becomes the most likable and lovable character that when it seems like his life may be in danger by the end, we automatically stand behind our vampire-friends and hope that nobody even lays a paw on Stu. It also creates for some very funny moments where we see that these vampires, despite what they’re forced to live and breath on, actually have emotions, thoughts, and feelings. They just kill people and suck their blood is all.
Shit. Maybe there was some complexity to this after all.
Consensus: While not aspiring to break any new ground, What We Do in the Shadows still works as a solid blend of horror, comedy, and faux-documentary that doesn’t forget about its characters, or the hilarious set-pieces they create to explore more and more.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!