There Hasn’t Been A Truly Great Vampire Movie Since What We Do In The Shadows
With Renfield on the way, we look at what was previously the best vampire flick of the last ten years - What We Do in the Shadows.
In a few weeks, we’ll all get out first chance to see Nicolas Cage play the legendary villain Dracula in the comedy horror Renfield. Tasked with figuring out the last time we got not just a comedy horror, but really a vampire movie as good as Renfield looks to be, the only choice I could come up with was 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows. Co-directed and co-written by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the New Zealand mockumentary film was the start of what FX would later turn into a hit TV series based stateside.
Like the TV series it spawned, What We Do in the Shadows finds its subjects balancing the murder and mayhem necessary for their immortality with the more mundane concerns of making friends and household chores.
Waititi plays Viago, the friendliest of the vampires and really the only one concerned with things like housework. Clement is Vladislav, a once mighty vampire traumatized by his humiliation at the hands of a villain he refers to simply as “The Beast” for most of the film. Rounding out the trio is Jonathan Brugh as Deacon, the youngest and most volatile of the housemates.
Of course, What We Do in the Shadows also features Ben Fransham as Petyr, an 8,000-year-old vampire who spends most of his time in his stone coffin in the basement, where he’s occasionally fed helpless animals by Viago.
The brilliance of the film is that it doesn’t sacrifice the scares for the laughs. What We Do in the Shadows is, yes, mostly hilarious but also genuinely gory and terrifying. An early scene in which victims are lured to the house under the guise of a dinner party proves equal parts funny, gross, and creepily scary; particularly when Clement’s face is CGI’d onto the body of a black cat.
The vampires’ world gets shaken with a new would-be snack-turned-vampire, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer). Nick refuses to follow the rules, and among other things his penchant for openly bragging about being a vampire leads to disaster for his housemates.
But Nick’s introduction also leads to the thing that, more than anything else, turns the vampires of What We Do in the Shadows into still murderous but more endearing characters. Nick refuses to completely leave his old life behind, and begins bringing around his old friend Stu (Stu Rutherford). While most humans wandering into their home would never leave again, by introducing the vampires to modern technological conveniences and just being generally relaxed around them, Stu winds up earning some surprisingly loyal friends in the bloody house.
In rewatching What We Do in the Shadows, it’s easy to see how the story eventually turned into a franchise. Along with the vampires, we meet plenty of other supernatural beings in this fictional New Zealand, including werewolves and zombies. Whether they initially meant to or not, with the film, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement built a promising little comedy horror universe.
Along with the FX show, the mockumentary Wellington Paranormal spun out of the film. It stars Karen O’Leary and Mike Minogue. In the series, O’Leary and Minogue play the same police officers from the film who briefly examine the vampires’ home but are hypnotized into seeing nothing but some vague housing code violations.
There’s also been talk of a What We Do in the Shadows sequel, We’re Wolves, which would focus on the werewolves led by Rhys Darby, who keep getting into altercations with the vampires. But in 2019, Waititi was blunt about his and Clement’s procrastination in regards to the sequel. Per IndieWire, he called We’re Wolves, “the film that Jemaine [Clement] and I keep pretending that we’re making.”