Fun interview with four vampires 

click to enlarge Taika Waititi plays Viago, one of a quartet of vampires, in the amusing mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows.” - COURTESY  PHOTO
  • Taika Waititi plays Viago, one of a quartet of vampires, in the amusing mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows.”
“What We Do in the Shadows” is a goofily gory and sweetly funny serving of vampire life from New Zealand.

Writer-director-actors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, whose combined credits include the misfit romance “Eagle Vs. Shark” and the TV series “Flight of the Conchords,” combine the bloodsucker and mockumentary formats in this low-budget-styled indie, produced by, according to opening text that sets the comic tone, the “New Zealand Documentary Board.”

Protected by crucifixes, a film crew captures the everyday world of four vampires sharing a Wellington flat.

Viago (Waititi), our guide, has a romantic nature and a fussy quality that some attribute to his history as an 18th-century dandy.

Vladislav (Clement), medievally bred, enjoys poking victims with torturous instruments and continues to fume over his battles with the “beast.”

Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), the group’s 183-year-old junior member, likes to party.

Petyr (Ben Fransham) has a scary Nosferatu look and, at age 8,000, doesn’t socialize. The comedy follows the quartet over several months, with the undead community’s annual costume ball capping things off.

Viago calls a meeting to address housekeeping issues: Deacon needs to do his share of the literally bloody dishes, for starters.

At other points, the vampires go clubbing (the hot nightspots reject the antiquatedly clad bunch), search for victims (virgins are preferred), and feud with clean-mouthed werewolves (“not swearwolves”).

Fresh blood arrives when Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a human, gets turned into a vampire. Loose-lipped about his transformation, Nick triggers disaster, but the vampires become fond of Stu (Stu Rutherford), his human software-analyst friend. Stu shows them how to Google virgins and watch a sunrise (!) online.

The film was inspired by a 2006 short, and, at just 86 minutes, it feels stretched. The plot is thin. Superior arthouse vampire fare, including Jim Jarmusch’s latest, exists.

But it is a winning brew of genre spoofery and genuine heart nonetheless.

Waititi and Clement have engagingly down-to-earth fun when combining vampire and roommate themes, as when Viago disapproves of the spinal column cluttering the floor, or when the vampires, unable to see themselves in the mirror, give one another wardrobe feedback.

Wisely, though, the filmmakers don’t let the gimmicks eclipse the emotional aspects. Greek theater it isn’t, but, amid the blood spills, the movie provides a rather sweet look at friendship, love, and trying to succeed in a younger, changing world.

Viago’s story of the human woman he loved and lost to another man is more moving than you’d expect, for example.

The actors are in character and in sync with the mockumentary brand of deadpan. Waititi’s hospitable Viago, introduced in a scene in which his hand emerges from a coffin to turn off a blaring alarm clock, is particularly enjoyable.


What We Do in the Shadows

three stars

Starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

Written and directed by Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi

Not rated

Running time 1 hour, 26 minutes

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Anita Katz

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