The mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows tells the story of three vampires living life and dealing with all sorts of everyday problems (unrequited love, dirty dishes, social awkwardness). Though the juxtaposition of banality and vampire life is original and initially entertaining, much of the comedy falls flat. The problems with this film start with its story, or lack there of. The film seems to jump from one clumsy episode to another, never cementing a narrative, and the types of comedic set-ups in the film have been used to death. The film borrows from The Office with its Jim Halpert-esque reaction shots in which vampires would stare blankly at the camera, and this is only one of many familiar moves.
Based on the people involved, What We Do in the Shadows should have been a smash hit. It is co-written and co-directed by successful comedians Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) and filmmaker Taika Waititi, it has a 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and its premise is original. Nevertheless, What We Do in the Shadows ultimately lacks the comedic originality necessary to hold an audience’s attention.
At first, the jokes are laugh-out-loud hilarious because of the initial novelty of a flat shared by vampires dealing with mundane problems, but soon the humor becomes dull, and the jokes feel too familiar. If this premise is to succeed as a feature-length film, there need to be sources of conflict and tension that stretch throughout the narrative. Instead, for the most part, we simply observe a series of moments in the lives of the vampires, without long-term substantial stakes.
Many single moments were hilarious, and this film is worth seeing for the new vampire-centric universe that Clement and Waititi explore. However, it would have worked better as a YouTube video. For an 86-minute film, it’s 76 minutes too long.