A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that What We Do in the Shadows is a horror comedy about vampires, shot in a fake-documentary style. It's from the New Zealand comedians behind Flight of the Conchords, so FOTC fans will definitely be interested. It's mostly intended to be funny, but there's still a lot of blood and gore, including a spurting jugular vein and huge bloody messes, as well as fighting and some scary images. Images meant to look like old paintings depict some violence and sex, and there's a brief image of an "orgy" (a vampire with three women on a bed), a shot of a naked man with his penis pixilated out, and some strong innuendo. Language includes a few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more. Some scenes take place in nightclubs or bars, and there's some background drinking.
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What's the story?
In New Zealand, four vampires share a flat together. There's 862-year-old Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), once known for torturing his victims; 317-year-old Viago (Taika Waititi), who's a "dandy" and likes to hold house meetings; 183-year-old "youngster" Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), a self-stylized bad boy; and demonic-looking 8000-year-old Petyr (Ben Fransham), who lives in the basement. The quartet invites a documentary crew to film their daily lives, especially the annual Unholy Masquerade, where Vladislav dreams of being the guest of honor. Meanwhile, one of their intended victims, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), has been turned into a new vampire, and he and his human pal, Stu (Stu Rutherford), create new kinds of trouble for the veteran vamps.
Is it any good?
Even though mockumentaries and vampires have both been done to death, this movie still manages some good ideas -- and a few hearty laughs. Clement is best known as half of the cult-fave duo Flight of the Conchords, and Waititi was also part of the show, working as a writer and director. They also made the comedy Eagle vs. Shark together. Now the pair teams up as co-stars, co-writers, and co-directors on WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS.
One of the funnier bits centers around the concept that vampires don't cast a reflection; the friends must draw sketches of one another as they get dressed up for a night on the town to make sure they look sharp. At other times, they play games with the mirror, making objects float in front of it. These little side jokes, as well as behaviors and relationships, are often funnier and more interesting than the movie's main plot twists -- as well as the "mockumentary" stuff -- but there are enough of them in the movie's loose structure that it never gets dull.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the What We Do in the Shadows' violence. Does the blood and horror shock you? Make you laugh? What's the difference between violence intended for humor and the more realistic kind?
What purpose does the movie's innuendo serve? Is it funny? Is it respectful? How far does the movie go in terms of sex?
What's the appeal of vampires in movies? How do these vampires compare to others you've seen? What other movie vampires are referenced?
How does the "fake documentary" format contribute to -- or detract from -- this story?
How are friendship, cooperation, and teamwork incorporated into the story?
- In theaters: February 13, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: July 21, 2015
- Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh
- Directors: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement
- Studio: Unison Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: bloody violent content, some sexual material and language
- Last updated: April 20, 2020
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