What We Do in the Shadows
|What We Do in the Shadows|
New Zealand theatrical release poster
|Music by||Plan 9|
|Distributed by||Madman Entertainment (New Zealand)|
The Orchard (North America)
|Box office||$6.9 million|
What We Do in the Shadows is a 2014 New Zealand mockumentary horror comedy film written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi and the first installment in the What We Do in the Shadows franchise. The film also stars Clement and Waititi, along with Jonathan Brugh, Ben Fransham, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford, and Jackie van Beek. The film's plot concerns several vampires who live together in a flat in Wellington.
What We Do in the Shadows premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014. It was released theatrically on 18 August 2014 by Madman Entertainment, and received critical acclaim. The film earned $6.9 million on a $1.6 million budget.
A documentary crew follows four vampire roommates—Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr— who share a flat in the Wellington suburb of Te Aro. All of the vampires possess supernatural powers, including levitation and the ability to transform into animals. Viago is a 379-year-old dandy from the 18th century, who originally traveled to New Zealand in the 1910s in search of the love of his life Katherine; Vladislav is an 862-year-old known as "Vladislav the Poker", who is haunted by memories of his nemesis "the Beast"; and Deacon is a 183-year-old former Nazi and the "young rebel" of the group who was bitten by Petyr—a reclusive, 8,000-year-old vampire who behaves like a feral animal.
Each night, Viago, Vladislav, and Deacon take the bus into town and prowl the streets of Wellington for people to kill. Deacon's human familiar, Jackie, runs errands for the vampires and cleans up the gore left behind by their feeding. A married mother, Jackie hopes to attain immortality—but is frustrated that Deacon will not turn her into a vampire as promised. Deacon requests that Jackie bring virgins to the flat so that the vampires can feed on them. She lures a woman who insulted her in primary school and Nick, her ex-boyfriend from childhood, to the flat. Though neither are actually virgins, the woman is killed, and Nick is attacked by Petyr. Nick survives the attack and becomes a vampire.
Two months later, the vampires accept Nick into their group and bond with his human friend Stu—a computer analyst who introduces them to modern technology such as the Internet and cameras. Viago uses the Internet to find Katherine, who is now a 96-year-old widow living in a rest home in Wellington, and also briefly reconnects with his old servant Philip. Despite being able to get his new friends into popular bars and clubs, Nick struggles to adapt to life as a vampire. Nick is also held in contempt by Deacon, who resents Nick's newfound popularity and his careless revealing of his vampirism to strangers he meets. One of these strangers, a vampire hunter, breaks into the flat basement during the day and kills Petyr by exposing him to sunlight.
The vampires are furious when they discover Nick has indirectly caused Petyr's death, and Deacon tries to kill Nick before being interrupted by a police welfare check. The police, whom Viago hypnotises, warn the vampires about numerous fire hazards inside the flat. Once the police leave, Nick is banished from the flat by the remaining vampires, though Stu is permitted to come as he pleases.
Several months later, the vampires receive an invitation to the annual Unholy Masquerade, hosted for the local undead population of vampires, zombies, and witches. Vladislav refuses to attend after learning that "the Beast" will be the guest of honor. When Viago and Deacon arrive at the ball, they find in attendance Nick, Stu and Jackie, the latter of whom has been turned into a vampire by Nick. "The Beast" is revealed to be Vladislav's ex-girlfriend Pauline, and when Stu and the camera crew are discovered to be living humans, the party guests threaten to kill and feed on them. Vladislav arrives and fights with Pauline's new boyfriend Julian. Stu impales Julian, and the vampires and camera crew escape the ball with him, only to encounter a rival pack of werewolves who are about to transform under the full moon. One cameraman is disemboweled by a werewolf, and Stu is viciously mauled. Believing Stu to be dead, the vampires run away and grieve for him.
After a few days, Nick returns to the flat with Stu and the werewolves. Stu reveals that he survived the attack and transformed to a werewolf that night. With Stu's urging, the pack is allowed to visit the flat and reconciles with the vampires—and Nick's banishment is rescinded. Viago also reconnects with Katherine, whom he turns into a vampire and rekindles his romance with. Scenes during the credits reveal that Vladislav has gotten back together with Pauline and Jackie has made her husband her familiar. A post-credits scene shows Deacon attempting to hypnotise the audience to forget the events of the film.
- Taika Waititi as Viago Von Dorna Schmarten Scheden Heimburg (né von Blitzenberg), aged 379 – an uptight member of the household. Waititi based his performance on his own mother.
- Jemaine Clement as Vladislav the Poker, aged 862 – a former tyrant with extreme powers. Clement based his performance on Gary Oldman's Dracula.
- Jonathan Brugh as Deacon Brucke, aged 183 – the "young rebel" of the group who is fond of knitting, erotic dancing, and "being cool".
- Ben Fransham as Petyr, aged 8,000 – a Nosferatu-like vampire who lives on the bottom floor of the flat in a stone coffin and generally keeps to himself.
- Cori Gonzalez-Macuer as Nick – an intended victim who is turned into a vampire by Petyr.
- Stu Rutherford as Stu – Nick's best friend who introduces the vampires to modern technology.
- Jackie van Beek as Jackie – a human and Deacon's familiar who cleans up after the vampires and connects them with potential victims.
- Rhys Darby as Anton – the leader of a local pack of werewolves.
- Ethel Robinson as Katherine Heimburg – the love of Viago's life.
- Elena Stejko as Pauline – Vladislav's ex-girlfriend whom he calls "The Beast".
- Jason Hoyte as Julian - Pauline's new boyfriend when she broke up with Vladislav.
- Karen O'Leary as Officer O'Leary – an officer who gets called to the vampires' house.
- Mike Minogue as Officer Minogue – an officer who gets called to the vampires' house.
The film is based on a 2005 short film—What We Do In The Shadows: Interviews With Some Vampires—written and directed by Waititi and Clement, and starring Jonny Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer and Stu Rutherford in their roles of Deacon, Nick and Stu respectively. The feature film adaptation was shot in Wellington in September 2012, and was Waititi's first feature since Boy.
Stu Rutherford, an IT technician and high school friend of Waititi's in real life, was initially told he would only have a bit part in the film so he would act more natural when filming. He did not realise his role was so important until the film's premiere.
Waititi revealed that there was so much footage filmed, that three cuts were made; one focused primarily on jokes, one focused on story, and the final cut, a mix of the two.
According to Waititi and Clement their favourite vampire films were The Lost Boys, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Interview with the Vampire. All of those movies are heavily quoted or referenced in the film, along with many other genre films such as Blade, Twilight and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
The score for the film was composed by Plan 9. The film's opening credits feature the song "You're Dead" by Norma Tanega, after Clement and Waititi were introduced to the song by film editor Tom Eagles. The film's trailer and ending feature the song "Lastochka" by the Russian rock band Leningrad.
The film was released in a limited release on 13 February 2015 in New York City and Los Angeles, followed by a screening in San Francisco, Irvine, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. The film received a regional release in the U.S. in March 2015, by Unison Films, The Orchard, and Paramount Pictures in association with Funny or Die and Paladin Pictures.
The film was heavily pirated. After the shutting down of a piracy website based in Mount Wellington, Auckland, the website revealed that, at 277,000 downloads, What We Do in the Shadows was one of its most heavily pirated films.
What We Do in the Shadows received critical acclaim and has an approval rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 172 reviews with an average rating of 7.8 out of 10. It is rated #68 on the website's list of Top 100 comedies of all time. The critical consensus states: "Smarter, fresher, and funnier than a modern vampire movie has any right to be, What We Do in the Shadows is bloody good fun." On Metacritic the film has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Fearnet called the film "a great vampire comedy". Film School Rejects wrote a predominantly positive review, commenting that some of the film's broader moments fell flat but compared it favorably to similar mockumentaries such as Best in Show. The film was warmly received by UK newspapers, with The Guardian's film critic Peter Bradshaw describing it as "the best comedy of the year", while The Telegraph's Tim Robey found it "desperately funny". Film International, in a positive review, commended the film for noting, with a double of Count Orlok locked in the vampires' basement, that the true vampire film tradition is repressed by the current craze. Variety was more critical, writing that "Some genre fans who prefer the silly to the satiric may bite, but the anemic pic isn't remotely weird or witty enough for cult immortality."
A sequel to the film, focused on the werewolves depicted in What We Do in the Shadows, was in development, but stopped due to some unresolved production issues. Originally rumoured to be titled What We Do in the Moonlight, the working title was later announced as We're Wolves.
In May 2019, Waititi said “'We're Wolves' is the film that Jemaine and I keep pretending that we’re making. Every couple of years we say, we’re making this new film called 'We're Wolves' which follows the werewolves from the film,” said Waititi. “I feel bad to even mention it now because we keep saying it, [but] it’s like a dad saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll be home for Christmas.’ I suppose we’re just two dads out on the road enjoying our lives and going, ‘We’re not coming home for Christmas.’ We'll send a postcard. It's not like we don't want to come home for Christmas. We would like nothing more but we have a lot of shit going on. When are you going to die? Do you have a ... deadline before your death? I guarantee it before then. Five years, 10 years? It took us seven years to write the [first] film, so you do the math. That was a sad thing to say." 
In 2005, Waititi and Clement wrote and directed a short film titled What We Do in the Shadows: Interviews with Some Vampires, which was a precursor to the feature-length film. The short stars Jonny Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer and Stu Rutherford in their roles of Deacon, Nick and Stu respectively.
In June 2014, Waititi, in conjunction with Discover New Zealand, produced a promotional short film titled Vampire's Guide to Vellington, in which he reprises his role as Viago von Blitzenberg.
In September 2016, it was revealed that Waititi and Clement were planning a procedural comedy series based on the police officers, O'Leary and Minogue, who had minor roles in the film, titled Wellington Paranormal. The series producers granted Waititi and Clement $1 million to produce six 30-minute episodes for the series, which aired on TVNZ 2 from 11 July 2018. The character Nick from the film also appeared in the episode "A Normal Night". New Zealand On Air announced that a second series with thirteen episodes will air in 2019.
What We Do in the Shadows
An American version of the film was developed as a television series. A pilot was ordered by FX, which featured Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, and Harvey Guillén. Executive producers of the show include Clement, Waititi, Scott Rudin, Paul Simms, Garrett Basch, and Eli Bush. On 3 May 2018, FX picked up the pilot, with an order of ten 30-minute episodes which premiered on 27 March 2019. In May 2019, FX renewed the series for a 10-episode second season to debut in 2020.
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- "27". Indie Wire. 24 May 2019.
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- Gerardi, Matt. "What We Do In The Shadows' incompetent cops to get their own TV show in 2018". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
- "13 new episodes of Wellington Paranormal will air in 2019". Stuff. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
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