Only laughs left alive
Comedy horror can be hit and miss. Just ask veteran spoofsters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who turned Scary Movie into a franchise and made dire, laugh-vacuum Twilight spoof Vampires Suck. Fortunately, while mock-doc What We Do In The Shadows riffs on vamp lore, it’s nothing like either. Made by the Flight Of The Conchords team, it’s one of the funniest comedies of the year.
Co-writer/directors Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement star as vampires Viago and Vladislav (‘Vlad The Poker’) who share a flat with fellow fang-bearers Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham). Viago, Vlad and Deacon hang out, argue about who does the dishes, try to get invited into nightclubs and occasionally spar with the local werewolf pack, while Nosferatu-alike Petyr skulks in a stone tomb in the basement. Entirely improvised around Waititi and Clement’s script, Shadows owes more to MTV’s The Real World than fake horror docs like The Blair Witch Project – at heart it’s a buddy comedy hinging on the accidental conversion of hipster Nick, which causes a rift in the group.
Rhys Darby (who played Conchords’ band manager Murray) steals scenes as alpha-dog Anton, guiding his werewolf pack like a well-respected middle-management team leader (“werewolves not swearwolves!” he admonishes them for cursing). Genre tropes are respected but gently mocked: Vlad is the Bram Stoker-esque impaler, Viago the Anne Rice-style New Romantic, while Deacon has his own human familiar in the form of Jackie who mows the lawn and does odd jobs for him. There are nods to The Lost Boys and Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, among others, plus some set pieces that are simply genius: not least the scene where the housemates, getting ready for a night out, are unable to see their own reflections and have to rely on each other’s drawings.
If ever there was a bubble-burster for the Twilight generation it’s this. “Leave me to do my dark bidding on the internet!” Vlad howls in heartbroken agony, when he discovers his former lover will be the guest of honour at the annual supernatural masquerade ball. Turns out he’s bidding on eBay for a table. Still, What We Do In The Shadows is not without its own bloody heart. A story about friendship and acceptance and embracing each other’s differences, there’s a real sweetness here. Doing for vampires what Shaun Of The Dead did for zombies, just as funny and easily as quotable, What We Do In The Shadows has cult classic bitten all over it.