Last year, Jim Jarmusch reestablished himself in many eyes with the existential ennui of Only Lovers Left Alive. The film interrogated the realities of being a vampire, looking at the practical ramifications of living for hundreds of years. How do the centuries affect one’s outlook on life, love and art? Now an unlikely companion piece arrives from New Zealand with the mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows, from Eagle vs. Shark director Taika Waititi and frequent collaborator, Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords.
What We Do in the Shadows follows the daily humdrummery of a household of vampires, all of various vintages and dispositions. There’s the dandy, the slob, the troubled one, and Nosferatu. House meetings are called to revisit the neglected chore wheel which has resulted in a stack of blood-drenched dishes in the sink. The film is basically variations on this joke for 80-odd minutes and somewhat surprisingly, it works. It’s a slight but amiable feature, low-key but consistently fun.
In keeping with the documentary facade, much of the film is shot closely with a spotlight shining directly on the leads, leaving their surroundings bathed in titular darkness. This style is particularly effective when the film introduces special effects such as flying and mutation, all of which are blended seamlessly and provide an occasional jolt amongst the chuckles. And it is mostly chuckles. But they’re consistent chuckles.
The funniest scenes occur when Clement and Waititi decide to go for broke. Despite being a low budget comedy, the film doesn’t shy away from its horrific roots, occasionally doubling down on gore with fountains of deep red blood. Sure, they lay down a newspaper first but come on, that stuff gets everywhere.
(What We Do in the Shadows is now playing at the Sundance Cinemas, The Majestic Bay Theatre, and the SIFF Uptown.)