It’s always said that horror comedies are notoriously difficult to do. Despite that, there are quite a few out there that I personally consider to be marvellous, including AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, RE-ANIMATOR, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, BAD TASTE, BRAIN DEAD, GREMLINS I & II (especially II) and more recently TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL, COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES and DETENTION.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is a great horror comedy. More importantly it might just be the funniest comedy about vampires ever made, and I’m speaking as a lifelong fan of both Tom Holland’s original FRIGHTNIGHT and Roman Polanski’s superlative THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS.
In Wellington in New Zealand, a documentary film crew is following the exploits of four vampires who share a house together. The vampires are of widely differing ages (the oldest is 8000 years old and looks like Max Schreck’s NOSFERATU) and backgrounds, but have ended up living together in the kind of ‘odd quartet’ relationship that worked so well in British sitcoms like THE YOUNG ONES. The film follows our heroes as they enjoy New Zealand nightlife, bring victims back to their lair, prepare for the annual ‘Unholy Masquerade’, and have run-ins with the local werewolf pack.
One of the most impressive achievements of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is how well it endears its motley leads to us despite what they get up to. In fact I don’t think I have ever seen such a charming film that has such vast quantities of blood in it. Performances are all spot-on and the production design is a pleasing melding of ADDAMS FAMILY gothic and YOUNG ONES tattiness. Writer and directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi previously worked together on the TV series FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, and another Conchords collaborator, Rhys Darby, turns up as the leader of the werewolf gang.
The film abounds with comic touches. The Unholy Masquerade takes place somewhere you wouldn't expect given its build up, and the masquerade itself feels like THE MONSTER CLUB done right. In fact more than anything else, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS reminded me of the works of R Chetwynd-Hayes, a fine British author who revelled in the inherent silliness of many popular horror tropes, especially vampires. If someone told me this movie was intended as a tribute to his work I would not have been at all surprised.
Metrodome’s Blu-ray comes packed with extras. Sadly there’s no commentary track, but there’s a short Behind the Scenes piece (17 minutes) and a whole load of deleted scenes, interviews and video extras than give you a good hour’s worth of extra footage that never made it into the finished film.
Without a doubt one of the best horror comedies to come along in years, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS deserves all the success it’s had so far, and if you’ve yet to see it, deny yourself the pleasure of this funny, gory but above all utterly charming film no longer.
Metrodome are releasing WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS on Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on 13th April 2015