Writer: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Ben Fransham
Running time: 86mins
The lowdown: Just when the mockumentary format seemed to gasp its last, this comedy gem provides a big old transfusion of grade-A claret. A loose plot has a documentary film crew following four centuries old vampyr through various misadventures house-sharing in modern day New Zealand. Imaginative, witty, gory and a cult classic in the making, it’s fang-tastic fun – and you can take that to the blood bank.
The full verdict: Vampires may be good at sucking billions in babysitting money off gullible teenage girls, but when it comes to the funny they usually reside in the comedy graveyard.
Remember Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows? Nope, no reason you should.
All of which means the field is wide open for a smart mickey (s)take on horror’s most enduring bad guy. Enter one-half of Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement and regular Conchords director Waititi.
Going the Spinal Tap mockumentary route, they’ve put together a skeleton plot and improvise vampire gags around it, along with the pitch perfect cast.
Clement is Vladislav, well ensconced into his 9th century and trying to put torture and mayhem behind him. Waititi is raffish dandy Viago, 379 years old, house proud and pining for a lost love. Not lost, just now living in an old folk’s home.
In their grimy mock Tudor detached house they’re joined by Deacon (Brugh), a mere 183 years young, channeling Adam Ant and leading on domestic slave Jackie (van Beek) with promises of turning her, and Peter (Fransham), 8,000 years old and channeling Nosferatu.
They may have a collective age pushing 10,000 but these Old Ones are The Young Ones, arrested adolescences arguing over the washing up, mucking about with medieval weaponry and squabbling with assorted nemeses – notably werewolves (“not swearwolves”, in what’s going to become one of 2014’s most hashtag friendly pop-culture refs).
Episodic to be sure, but the gag hit rate far outweighs misses. New blood Nick (Gonzalez-Macuer) spoils the fun with his showing off, picking up girls by boasting Twilight was a documentary about him. But his human best friend Stu (Rutherford) introduces the bloodsucking undead to the wonders of the internet, texting and other technological advances they’ve missed.
So evil bidding becomes something Vlad does on ebay…
Like that rare successful vampire comedy Fright Night, What We Do In The Shadows allows room for darkness. At the end of the day these lads kill people for food and despite years of practice the odd ruptured main vein is shown ruining the wallpaper or bathroom tiling.
Elsewhere, a human hunt through their cavernous house ends in a punchline The Ring would kill for, while the meat raffle at annual undead shindig The Unholy Masquerade is very much aware what’s going on.
Subtle FX work places nonchalantly used superpowers effectively against mundane backdrops – you will believe these vampires can fly. And shape shift. And projectile vomit.
A full-blooded delight then. If a sequel comes calling, can we suggest Matt Berry as Vlad’s long lost brother?