When done well, comedy and horror can be a fantastic combination. The Evil Dead sequels are probably the best example of this, with Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi creating one of the biggest cult horror franchises. New Zealand has a fine pedigree in this area, notably Peter Jackson’s early work: Braindead, Bad Taste and Meet The Feebles. That offbeat humour was given the modern touch in Flight of the Conchords. Half of the partnership behind it, Jermaine Clement, dips his toes into the genre for his directorial debut, What We Do In The Shadows.
A New Zealand documentary crew follows three Wellington housemates for a few months. The twist is that Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) are vampires. Skilfully filmed in the style of MTV’s The Real World, the trio’s equilibrium is often tested by years of avoidance of household chores, temper tantrums and getting (human) blood on the couch. Their quiet and boring lives are punctured when Petyr (Ben Fransham), the Nosfaratu-like elder vampire in the cellar, decides to bite one of their dinner guests, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer).
What We Do In The Shadows was one of the best comedies of 2014. I was less drawn to the straight humour (which is still very funny) second time around, noticing much more of the clever subtlety running through it. Along with co-director and writer Taika Waititi and Jonathan Brugh, all three leads have exceptional timing and comic mannerisms. It’s a brilliant premise, and the joke could easily have fizzled out in after the first twenty minutes, but a strong script holds your interest throughout. If you’re not seen What We Do In The Shadows yet, you really should.
What We Do In The Shadows is released on DVD & Blu-ray by Metrodome on April 13.