16 January 2018

Film Review: 'What We Do in the Shadows' (2014)

Fig. 1 Poster
'What We do in the Shadows' (2014) is a mockumentary style film directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, it received critical acclaim as an excellent comedy and did reasonably well at the box office. The film is about vampires in a house share and presents its fictional events as truthful, using documentary techniques for comedic effect. Michael O'Sullivan, writing for The Washington Post comments that that the filmmakers' 'satire is a crude but effective tool' (O'Sullivan, 2015). Documentaries aim to present a view of real life events, often to inform people about things going on in the world that they might not know about. Mockumentaries use the stylings of documentaries to display fictional events, often for satirical effect. Writing for The Chicago Reader, J.R. Jones notes that 'Clement and Waititi have got the reality-show format just right: the direct-address interviews, the confessional voice-overs, the zoom-in reaction shots.' (Jones, 2015). Fig. 2 shows the character of Deacon addressing the camera for an interview, much as one might see in many reality shows. The stylings of the set and of Deacon himself contrast well with the contemporary nature of this format.

Fig. 2 Deacon
The film's first character Viago, played by Waititi, is a 379 year old vampire from Europe. He lives with Deacon, Vladislav and Petyr, who have a ages ranging from 183 to 8,000. Clement and Waititi wanted to separate their film from other mockumentaries, which they realised tended to be about realistic things, by making the mockumentary on things that aren't realistic and cannot be documented (Bailey, 2015). There is often conflict that is common in a regular house share situation, but the film uses the differences that would arise when the housemates are vampires to inject comedy into the situation. For example, the vampires argue about dishes and have a chore wheel, all pretty normal stuff, but it turns out that Deacon hasn't done the dishes for five years. Fig. 3 shows the pile up of dishes that has occurred during this time. The extreme length of time is incongruent with the everyday nature of the argument and then the characters fly around in the air. The contrasts here, and throughout the film, between the ordinary and the extraordinary is an important part of bringing comedy to the film.

Fig. 3 Dishes

The directors use the contrast between mundane daily life and gore and the supernatural to create comedy through incongruity; the mockumentary style is useful in creating the mundane and ordinary elements of the contrast.


Bailey, J (2015) 'Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi on Second-Wave Vampire Movies, the Conchords Reunion, and ‘What We Do in the Shadows’'. At: http://flavorwire.com/504317/jemaine-clement-and-taika-waititi-on-second-wave-vampire-movies-the-conchords-reunion-and-what-we-do-in-the-shadows (accessed on 16.01.18)

Jones, J (2015) 'Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi want to suck your blood'. At: https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/what-we-do-in-the-shadows-jemaine-clement-taika-waititi-horror-comedy/Content?oid=16676536 (accessed on 16.01.18)

Illustration List

Fig. 1 Poster
Clement, J & Waititi, T (2014) 'What We Do in the Shadows' [Poster] At: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMjAwNDA5NzEwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA1MDUyNDE@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_.jpg (accessed on 16.01.18)

Fig. 2 Deacon
Clement, J & Waititi, T (2014) 'What We Do in the Shadows' [Film Still] At: http://imwithgeekarchive.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/7/2/12727119/6029949_orig.jpg (accessed on 16.01.18)

Fig. 3 Dishes
Clement, J & Waititi, T (2014) 'What We Do in the Shadows[Film Still] At: http://static1.businessinsider.com/image/54db96b6ecad04d06da75726-836-453/what-we-do-in-shadows-screen-3.jpg (accessed on 16.01.18)

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