What We Do in the Shadows confidently and firmly drives a stake into the heart of cultural affinity for vampires. Through its candid documentary style, Shadows remarkably makes the life of the creature of the night look banal, mundane and pathetic. Primarily, this is illustrated in the inherent domesticity of the immortal beings, which effectively juxtaposes with the visual showcasing of the vampires’ former lives.
Each of the characters are explorations of longstanding vampire archetypes. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is a clear homage to Vlad the Impaler, who is said to have been a significant influence on Bram Stocker when he conceived of Dracula. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) feels like a channelling of Colin Farrel’s overtly macho Jerry in the Fright Night remake that came out in 2011.
Quite clearly, Petyr (Ben Fransham) is a visual homage to the cinema’s first conception of the vampire which is Max Schreck’s immortal performance in F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. And the overly cautious head of the household, Viago (Taika Waititi) is the closest in embodying the romantic spirit of vampires, which is showcased in a subplot where he discusses his long lost love.
At the same time, the film also showcases the fundamental melancholic edge that comes with being an eternal being with a sub-plot where a human becomes a vampire. Crucially, the film addresses this existential angst without ever feeling the need to compromise its comedy, which is the picture’s primary strength. It essentially lovingly mocks these supernatural creatures that have fascinated audiences since the dawn of cinema.