The four flatmates.
Rightly described as "the SPINAL TAP of vampire movies," WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is an utterly straight-faced mockumentary that follows four vampires who share a house in Wellington, New Zealand. Chronicling their day-to-day un-death in the months leading up to New Zealand's semi-annual vampire ball, The Unholy Masquerade, the filmmakers position sweet-natured Viago (Taika Waititi), a 379-year-old fastidious dandy from the 18th century, as our de facto guide into the twilight world of undead suckfaces.
Viago (Taika Waititi), our guide.
Through him we meet:
- Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), 183 years old. The "bad boy" and "cool guy" of the group. A loathsome asshole who's a former Nazi and is currently in master/slave relationship with human familiar, Jackie (Jackie Van Beek), who serves him for the promise of eventual immortality.
- Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), "the Poker." 862 years old and hailing from medieval times, turned at 16 (he explains his 30-something looks with "in those days life was tough for a 16-year-old"), Vlad is "the sexy one" and possesses a seemingly limitless sexual appetite with assorted perverse leanings. Inspired by Vlad the impaler.
- Petyr (Ben Fransham), an 8000-year-old Nosferatu-type. Hisses rather than speaks, feral and terrifying, and is the vampire who turned Deacon, who considers him a genuine friend.
The period documented during the film outlines the logistics of surviving and thriving as a vampire in the modern age, as well as spotlighting the goings-on of the individual protagonists, such as the messy realities of feeding on human blood. The local vampire community is also seen, but saying more about them would ruin some fun surprises, so the less said the better. There are also run-ins with the local pack of werewolves (whose personas are memorably against stereotype), a vampire hunter, and an ongoing tale of lost love and the tragic longing that goes with it. We are also introduced to the recently-vampirized NIck (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a victim of Petyr's who must be taught the ins and outs of his new status in un-death, and with him comes his human best friend, Stu (Stu Rutherford), who's surprisingly unperturbed by hanging out with a bunch of actual vampires. Instead, he introduces them to the wonders of modern technology, such as cruising the Internet, which allows the vampires to see footage of a sunrise for the first time in ages. (They are also introduced to the sleazier side of the Internet, such as checking out websites featuring photos and footage of alleged virgins getting up to all manner of prurient shenanigans. Observes Vlad, "She can't be a virgin if she's doing that.")
Poster from the U.K. theatrical release.