'What we do in the Shadows' (2014) Review

Taika Waititi’s comedy-horror film "What We Do in the Shadows" (2014) is a charmingly short and simple mockumentary, in the same vein as “This is Spinal Tap” (1984), that delivers everything one could hope for and then some. Waititi, who is most known for his comedic direction of “Thor: Ragnarok” and his portrayal of Hitler in “Jojo Rabbit,” shows masterful skill in delivering a performance that never misses a beat in landing a joke.

The film follows the vampiric lives of four New Zealand housemates attempting to live together in the modern day while still struggling with identity, worsened for them because vampires live forever. The comedy of the film comes from the fact that Waititi apparently did not give a script to any characters, preferring to improvise everything, with only a start and end point for the scene defined.

The natural delivery of wit mixed with the spontaneity of colorful violence, slapstick, and Waititi’s appreciation for horror gives this film a peculiar but brilliant flavor, one that never ceases to keep the viewer enthralled. Even though it is a movie centered around vampires, indeed with some hints of horror thrown into it, the movie is perhaps better described as an homage to classic horror, with references capturing everything from “Nosferatu” to Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula.” The humor of the picture shifts the supposition many have of vampires from conniving, demonic creatures of death to be thick-headed and dimwitted caricatures lacking much of the mystery and enchantment their predecessors would expect them to hold.

Of course, comedy isn’t the only métier that propels this film. The characters recognize the dismal totality of living forever on Earth. How is it possible to find meaning in life without the incentive of mortality? This conflict exists in all the characters, with their ages ranging from a few hundred to 8,000 years. The youthful rebellious spirit of the younger vampires make it difficult for the others to welcome the changing ways of the world. Their struggles humanize them to the audience, and their dispositions make them memorable.

Their interactions with one another, which varies from bickering to touching vulnerable scenes, show us that no living creature is free from isolation. The message is clear that despite not being alone, it is still possible to be consumed by loneliness. The creative nature of the film, to have them acknowledge the constant presence of a film crew and being aware of the ridiculous situation that they find themselves in, holds no barrier to what they wish to comment about the real world, our shared struggles on shorter lifespans.

In a nutshell, "What We Do in the Shadows" is a clever and enjoyable movie that skillfully mixes comedy, horror, and meaningful ideas to offer a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable viewing experience. By using a mockumentary style and self-referential humor, the movie elevates its storytelling, adding more layers of depth and self-awareness. The film explores themes about who we are and how we relate to others, bringing unexpected emotional weight to the story, making it even more compelling. A definite must-watch for those in search of good comedy.