Like the infamous, invasive Cane Toad that nearly destroyed Australia, the past decade of Western culture has been inundated with two particular pests: vampires and reality shows. Both beasts had sort of noble beginnings (don't laugh: done right, a serialized documentary is perfect for TV), but have been perverted and distorted to the point that they often feel irredeemable. What We Do In The Shadows is at once a send-up and a celebration of these sapped phenomenons.
Starring Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (a director on the HBO series), the New Zealand film purports to be a documentary exploring the culture of vampires in Wellington, particularly a trio of flatmates – a tyrannical pervert, a dandy, and a bad boy whose ages range from 200 years old to about 700. The film putters along with them as they go through the daily gears of immortality and house chores. If you think culture has become bored with vampires, just imagine how the vampires feel. What We Do In The Shadows is, at it's best, a comedy of banalities – though there are plenty of bursts of horror and gore that will satisfy fright fans. But it's in the banalities where it succeeds most as a lambast of reality programming. Putting a lens on someone's day-to-day, even if they're an undead monster, is the best way to reveal the absurdity of it all.
Depending on your experience, the fake documentary genre has become just as stale and vampires and reality TV. This is Spinal Tap has long been the benchmark, and for the longest time Christopher Guest and the gang were the only game in town. Partly thanks to The Office, we're now assuaged with talking heads and shaky, handheld storytelling. But What We Do In the Shadows never feels stale. Like Flight of the Conchords, much of the humour comes from a fish-out-water innocence. Like with any overdone genre, the temptation is there to start winking, but most of the laughs in What We Do In The Shadows come from playing it straight.