So a mockumentary about a bunch of vampires living in a sharehouse in New Zealand probably shouldn’t work. In large part why this does is because it fully commits to its premise: Viago (Taika Waititi, who co-wrote and directs) is our guide into New Zealand’s underworld, a foppish vampire from the early 19th Century who’s basically a kind of dorky nice guy … apart from all the blood drinking. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is a slightly more recent vampire and is the “sexy” one (not really), while Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is a bit more old-school, dating from the Middle Ages (think Dracula, if Dracula wasn’t so good at shape-changing).
There’s a bunch of laughs to be mined from the idea of vampires dealing with typical sharehouse dramas and this gets pretty much all the jokes there are, but it’s just as good when it comes to getting laughs out of taking the underworld seriously: vampires and werewolves don’t get along (cue a lot of lame insults from both sides), trying to get into nightclubs to find victims is hard when you have to be invited in, finding a good outfit is tricky when you don’t have a reflection (the solution? Have someone handy to do quick sketches), familiars spend most of their time complaining you haven’t turned them into a vampire yet, and so on.
There’s not a whole lot of story here really: there’s a big monsters’ ball coming up, while our vampiric trio have to deal with the pros and cons of having a new vampire around when casual acquaintance Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) is turned (sure, he can get them into all the cool clubs, but he just won’t stop telling people he’s a vampire). But when the jokes are this strong, it doesn’t really matter.
Whether it’s as a parody of various vampire clichés – Deacon is a pisstake of “gritty” vampires a la Near Dark, Vladislav is more of a swipe at Bram Stoker’s Dracula, while there’s a dead ringer for Nosferatu living in their basement – or just a comedy about a bunch of dorky guys living together in a crummy house, What We Do In The Shadows is easily one of this year’s funniest films.