Interview With a Vampire
by Lee Curtis
Twilight exploded onto the scene and exposed the vampire movie to the limelight. Vampires were back, and enjoying their moment in the sun… well, that was only going to end one way.
Before long, Hollywood had sucked it dry and by 2014 one of cinema’s oldest subgenres was desperate for a fresh take. Jim Jarmusch dealt the first blow with a typically offbeat entry, Only Lovers Left Alive, only to be trumped eight months later by two New Zealanders whose movie was just as obscure as their remedy: pairing the vampire movie with an equally saturated subgenre, mockumentary.
Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement have built their burgeoning careers on the back of misfits. From the fragile romance explored in Waititi’s Eagle Vs Shark, to Clement’s small screen partnership with Bret McKenzie as Flight Of The Conchords, each of their individual projects has celebrated the world’s oddballs. Working together, they take their common theme a step further by exploring the comedy and tragedy in the human condition through the unique perspective of former humans.
What We Do In The Shadows centres on the day-to-day domestic lives of four very different vampires living in a flat share. There’s Viago, who is over 300 years old and only came to New Zealand to pursue a love interest; Vladislav, a once powerful vampire from the Middle Ages cut down by his nemesis; Deacon, the youngest of the group who believes vampires are above menial human tasks such as washing the dishes; and Petyr, a Nosferatu-like vampire who is over 8000 years old.
The jokes come thick and fast as these distinct personalities collide. Their trivial domestic arguments are just as humorous as the overriding deconstruction of the traditional vampire tropes, but the film revels in its profound exploration of the beliefs, conflicts, and mortality that make up the fabric of human existence.
No one expected a vampire mockumentary to succeed as both have been exhausted in recent years, but Waititi and Clement bring these two genres together remarkably. What could have so easily been a one-punch joke stretched too thin is handled masterfully to ensure a hilarious love letter to vampire lore. Genuinely funny, gleefully bloody, and often profound, this celebration of the dead and undead is as entertaining as it is rewarding.