Shortly before Halloween, I was browsing Netflix for some good films to get in the spirit of the season. What We Do In the Shadows popped up as a recommendation. With some trepidation, I decided to try it. In my experience most horror-comedies end up being campy, silly, or both. Often they err on the side of just being sweet enough to rot a vampire’s fangs. A few are brilliant such as Young Frankenstein.
What We Do in the Shadows proved to be a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t brilliant like Young Frankenstein but it was still loads of fun. It’s told in the style of a reality show or documentary following the night-to-night lives of four vampires: 379-year-old Viago, 862-year-old Vladislav, 183-year-old rebellious youngster Deacon, and 8000-year-old Petyr. The four vampires share a flat in Wellington, New Zealand. There’s a loose plot thread about Deacon’s thrall Jackie who wants to be a vampire, a young man named Nick who becomes a vampire during the course of the movie and Nick’s friend Stu, a computer programmer who helps introduce the vampires to technology.
As with a lot of mocumentaries, they set up numerous situations for the characters to play off each other. For instance, we learn that Viago is very fussy and wants his housemates to put newspapers down when they bring a victim home to kill them. A few scenes later, we see Viago seducing a victim while putting newspaper down. It’s fun, but it could get old fast if it was just one gag after another. One thing that helps is that the movie does a good job of playing with both traditional vampire lore and pop culture. They poke fun at Twilight, The Lost Boys, and Blade, plus the whole thing is a riff on Interview with the Vampire. At the same time, there are interposed scenes that look at the history of the vampires and their impact on history.
Another thing that makes this movie worthwhile is that it doesn’t forget to be scary. There are a few moments that were honestly creepy, such as Petyr’s first appearance and later when Nick is being stalked by the vampires. There are even a few moments that were a little sad. The two main sad points both involve spoilers, but they do keep you invested in the characters and a little uncertain whether or not the movie will have a happy ending. The pacing could drag at times—one of the things that keeps the movie from being brilliant—but my interest in the overarching story and the characters pulled me along even through the slow moments.
One thing I really loved about the movie was how the vampire lore reminded me of the lore I created for the Scarlet Order novels. I think that’s a reflection of the fact that both the movie makers and I really love classic vampire films. Vampires of the Scarlet Order takes a lot of inspiration from the classic Universal monster films as well as Nosferatu. I could certainly imagine a great story in which one or more of the Scarlet Order vampires spent time with Vladislav, Viago, Deacon, Petyr, and Nick.