What We Do in the Shadows Review: Nonstop Laughter



Still image of Viago, Vladislav, and Deacon getting ready to go out

Gavin Clingham, Staff Writer

This may be a film you’ve never heard of before, but it’s one that’s definitely worth your time. It literally introduced the world to the comedy legend that is Taika Waititi. I watched it with my parents over the weekend and they were impressed despite them usually disliking offbeat films. I can’t even begin to describe the awesome ride viewers embark upon with this film, but I might as well start since I can’t stop recommending it. 

What We Do in the Shadows is about a documentary produced in New Zealand following three vampires, Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonny Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham). Viago is very controlling of everything in the house, Vladislav is recovering from his breakup with the beast, and Deacon is the self-proclaimed bad boy of the bunch. They’re putting up with typical vampire issues that include paying the rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, and struggling to get into nightclubs. There’s already enough tension with four vampires in a flat, but there’s even more as Petyr turns a young hip man named Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) into a vampire. 

This movie is just drop-dead hilarious in every scene. The trailer gave away some of the best parts so I’m not including one in the review because it is best to go into this film cold. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (the film’s writers) fully take advantage of the material they can use for 18th century vampires in the modern day.The film knows exactly what it is and what it’s going for and it fully embraces it (which I adore). It’s like This is Spinal Tap or Best in Show for the more modern audience. 

Viago, Vladislav, and Deacon pictured forming a band. (timeout.com)

I cannot forget about the comedic performances of the film which easily stand out. Waititi shines as he usually does in his movies but Jemaine Clement was a pretty great surprise. He managed to make a character, who is pretty serious on paper, hilarious. Jonny Brugh also proved that he could play a dramatic role just as well as a comedic role, which really helped for Deacon’s character arc. Also Stu Rutherford as Stu (some people just kept their names for the film) was an immediate highlight, pretty significant considering he wasn’t an actor. He was an actual systems analyst and they just asked him to be in the movie.  The entire ensemble  is severely underrated and talented beyond belief. I also love thinking about the fact that Vladislav was based on the original Dracula while Taika Waititi based Viago on his own mother. 

I forgot to mention that a great portion of the film is just entirely improvised. I can’t even begin to think how you would improvise lines in a mockumentary about vampires but it’s so successful that I didn’t even notice it until I looked up trivia afterwards. It helps contribute to the film’s offbeat and quirky tone, which just kicks the film to a whole new level. And if you’re worried that the improvisation throws off the film’s balance, it does not even come close to derailing the movie. Some of the most memorable lines and scenes, as well as funniest moments, came on the spot to actors in the film. 

Viago testing to see his reflection. (nytimes.com)

While it has flown under the radar, you can rent it on of iTunes or Amazon. It is entirely worth the money, and I can guarantee that it’ll at least get a good laugh out of you. It’s everything I wanted it to be and more, and I can’t recommend it enough.