I’ve been a big fan of Taika Waititi since seeing his 2007 feature film Eagle vs Shark, an hilarious and incredibly awkward film featuring Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) and Loren Taylor. Fans of Napoleon Dynamite should invest a couple of hours into it. ANYWAY. Waititi followed this gem up with directing episodes of Flight of the Conchords (on HBO), The Inbetweeners (on iTV), and a beautiful feature film called Boy (which remains one of my favourite films of 2010). Needless to say, when I heard he was directing and starring in a vampire mockumentary, I was very intrigued.
My plans to hit the Openair Cinemas late last year fell through and eventually I realised I had missed What We Do In The Shadows on the big screen. Usually when that happens, unless it’s something I am desperate to see, I’ll not make a huge effort to rent or download a copy, so when I spotted it listed on my local Hoyts Kiosk as available, I jumped right in.
Taika Waititi – in both his writing and his directing – manages to tap into something truly genuine within the stories he wants to tell. His characters are fully-formed, his eye for a shot spectacular, and comedic timing? It’s like he doesn’t even have to try. Those are the things that made me love Boy, and are also the things I enjoyed in What We Do In The Shadows.
So what’s it like for 300+ year old vampires living in the new millenium? Have they caught up to technology? Do they successfully sharehouse? Can they date humans?
The mockumentary format is something I’m not hugely familiar with, having not seen many since the explosion of the genre. But in WWDITS, Waititi (who plays Viago) explores those questions with the aid of long-time writing partner Jemaine as Vladislav and Jonathan Brugh as Deacon.
There’s a gorgeous dynamic between the three, who navigate feeding in secret, werewolves not swearwolves, and new vamps in the neighbourhood together. Viago is the more sensitive vamp – he wines and dines his victims before their deaths in an attempt to make their last moments their best – while Vladislav and Deacon’s tastes are more violent and sexual in nature. Deacon, of course, has a human servant who’s been promised (and not given) eternal life, and creepy as fuck Petyr, the Count Dracula of the group, just lives behind the wall and hisses at errrrrrrrrybody.
I won’t go into the plot too much, but let’s just say when a routine feeding goes wrong, the group face some pretty unpleasant consequences in the form of Nick, a local “virgin”, making human friends, and The Beast. We also get to meet some werewolves with familiar faces, and witness some of the most laugh-out-loud moments of recent vampire films. My favourite quote, regarding feeding on virgins, comes from Jemaine’s Vladislav:
It’s like if you were going to eat a sandwich, you’d feel a whole lot better if you knew that… no one had fucked it…
I may have choked on the tea I was drinking at that point. Perfection.
Stylistically the film is wonderful, interchanging between observant camera work and active involvement seamlessly. I do wonder how much of the script was ad-libbed by the actors too, with Nick in particular having some very convincing conversational scenes throughout. KUDOS GUYS.
In all, while it’s not my fave Taika offering, it’s still an arrow in his sling of Good Shit I Did. I can only hope he’s now working on something to blow all previous work out of the water. Please!