Vampires + Reality TV = what? You’ll find out if you watch the comedy/horror mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows (2014). The film was written and directed by two of its stars, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, and it has it all: deadpan comedy, relatable roommate squabbles, social rejection, darkness, aggressive artery punctures (which I could do without), a feeling of general creepiness, documentary vibes, and old timey clothing.
What We Do in the Shadows is set in modern day New Zealand, where four roommate vampires are trying to navigate 21st century life. I say four vampires because technically it is four, but one of the vampires, Petyr, is every child’s nightmare, so he only makes limited appearances. The other three vampires – Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav – are the main subjects of the “documentary”.
This film is bizarre, creative perfection. It must have been pretty amusing to sit in a room and brainstorm all the ways modern life would be inconvenient for vampires. Today’s vampires not only have to deal with the whole ‘drinking blood and staying out of the sun’ thing, but also negotiate the stale day-to-day conflicts of us “regular people”. Arguing about whose turn it is to do the dishes. Who forgot to pay rent. Which friend is trash talking the other one. We’re all just people/immortals trying to find some joy in this crazy world.
The vampire roommates struggle with issues us humans would never have to worry about. Not having a reflection, for instance, makes it pretty hard to play “What should I wear tonight?” before you hit the club. And then, even if you do pick something suitable, you can’t actually get into the club unless the bouncer invites you.
At the beginning of the “documentary” each vampire explains how they became who they are. I don’t want to ruin their backstories, but here are their general personalities:
Deacon: Deacon is described as the “bad boy” of the group. He is a sensual, wild, vampire nazi.
Vladislav: Vladislav has been around since the medieval times, so he has a more old school mentality about vampiring.
Viago: Viago is the diva who often appoints himself the leader and mediator of the group.
Although their lives are restricted, the vampires aren’t living in complete isolation. Not only are they interacting with humans like Deacon’s servant Jackie and their friend Stu, but they know other vampires and creatures as well. In fact, there’s a bustling society of vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, and other nonhuman beings running rampant around the city. The “documentary” is filmed as a lead up to the Unholy Masquerade, which is an annual gathering of all these creatures.
If I reveal too much about the plot it may ruin the experience, so instead, I’ll end this post with a few teaser quotes to look forward to when you watch it….
[On why they like virgin blood]
Deacon: I think we drink virgin blood because it sounds cool.
Vladislav: I think of it like this. If you’re going to enjoy a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.
Anton the Werewolf: [to all the werewolves] What are we? We’re… [All, together] We’re Werewolves, not Swear-Wolves.
Stu: [Showing the vampires Google] Anything you want to find you type it in.
Viago: I lost a really nice silk scarf in about 1912.
Deacon: Yes, now Google it.
Deacon: Shut up, Nick! You’re not Twilight.