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Film / What We Do in the Shadows

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"Vampires have had a pretty bad rep. We're not these mopey old creatures who live in castles. Well, most of us are... a lot are, but.... There are those of us who like to flat together in small countries like New Zealand."

What We Do in the Shadows is a Black Comedy Horror Mockumentary which follows three colorful, but lovable vampire flatmates: Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav, in their struggles to fit into modern day Wellington society. When their eight-thousand-year-old extra flatmate Petyr (pronounced "Peter"), attacks and turns twenty-something hipster Nick into a vampire, the guys must teach him the ropes of vampirism and guide him through his newfound eternal life. In turn they are forced to learn a thing or two about modern society including technology, the Internet, and proper clubbing.

The film was co-directed as well as co-written by Taika Waititi (of Boy) and Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords). It was released in its home country, New Zealand, as well as a few others in 2014. It later met a limited release in the States in early 2015.


A Spin-Off series based around the two police officers, Karen and Mike called Wellington Paranormal premiered in 2018.

An American series based on the film called What We Do in the Shadows, headed by Waititi and Clement, premiered on March 27, 2019 on FX

Tropes in this film include:

  • 100% Adoration Rating: Everybody likes Stu, though a few some just like him for his tasty blood.
  • The Ace: Despite (or maybe because of) being The Everyman, everyone loves Stu. He wins over the vampires much faster than Nick, helps them connect to the internet world for the first time in their lengthy lives, stabs a vampire in the chest with little trouble, survives a werewolf attack, and even seems to be on his way to becoming their new Alpha Male within two months.
  • Adorkable: Viago.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Viago is a murdering vampire. He's also a sweet, easygoing guy who generally maintains peace in the flat and tries to get on with everyone. He is also extraordinarily nice and polite to his unsuspecting victims, since he believes that their last moment alive before he bites into their throat and sucks them dry should be a pleasant one.
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    • All the four "flatmates" are this to some degree.
  • Affectionate Parody: The film parodies and references a whole slew of different vampire films, and the faithfulness of it all makes it very clear that Waititi and Clement hold a great deal of affection for the genre.
  • Ambiguously Human: There are a few really odd-looking creatures present at the Unholy Masquerade whose species the vampires can't even identify.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Nick is cast out of the flat for bringing a human into the flat (but everyone loves Stu, so they ignore that one), telling people that he's a vampire, getting Petyr killed, and wearing clothes that are too similar to Deacon's style. Even funnier, Viago says they were going in order of seriousness of the crime, so mimicking someone's style is apparently worse than murder. Though it's immediately lampshaded when Viago says that while they normally go in order of seriousness of the crime, they mentioned Petyr's death last for dramatic effect.
  • As Himself: Stu is played by Stuart Rutherford, a part-time business analyst for the Wellington company Lan Worx. He wasn't aware that he'd be playing a major part, and was actually told he'd been brought on to do some computer work for the filming crew, with him playing only a minor part on the side as an added deal.
  • Asshole Victim: At one point in their nightly club crawl, the trio stop and talk to a pair of prepubescent girls. Turns out they're fellow vampires who were turned when they were very young, and use their overly youthful appearance to lure in and feed on pedophiles.
  • Badass Decay: Invoked. Vladislav was once one of the most feared and powerful vampires in the world, but after a battle with his arch-foe "The Beast" he became a shell of his former self. Viago notes that both Vladislav's transformation and hypnotic abilities have weakened considerably since he was in his prime.
  • Badass Normal: Stu manages to navigate through the supernatural community with ease despite being the only human in the main cast until the ending.
  • Beast with a Human Face: Vampire Vlad just hasn't been the same since he lost his fight with The Beast — he used to be able to change into any animal, but now he never gets the faces right. Specifically, he turns into a black cat with a tiny human face.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: The morning after the werewolves disembowel Stu, the police mistakenly put the blame on a stray dog and tell the camera crew that it will have to be put down.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Viago's attempted "dignified feeding" goes... messily, shall we say. With arterial spray akin to a Tarantino death scene. His panicked cursing just adds to the hilarity.
    • Later, Nick discovers that when a vampire eats human food, the result is projectile vomiting blood. Massive amounts of high pressure blood.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The vampires have no qualms about killing humans yet they aren't necessarily considered evil. They just operate on a different set of moral standards than ours.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In an early scene, Viago explains that Vladislav can't get the faces quite right when he transforms into animals. A few scenes later, when Nick is trying to escape from the flat, he runs into a black cat with Vladislav's face.
    • During one of Vladislav's initial interviews, he mentions that his favorite torture to inflict on people was to poke them with various sharp objects, earning him the nickname of "Vlad the Poker". Comes the part where Stu demonstrates various ways of interacting on the Internet...
  • Camera Abuse: When the group are attacked by werewolves near the end, one of them attacks a cameraman, who drops the camera.
  • Camp Straight:
    • Viago is very effeminate, to the point of being described by Vladislav as The Dandy, but he still holds a candle for a woman he fell in love with decades ago.
    • Jackie at one point uses a homophobic slur out of frustration with Deacon.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Nick tells just about everyone he meets that he's a vampire. Something that is actually governed by a weak Masquerade.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The "vampire hunter" who Nick outs himself to turns out to really be a vampire hunter, and indirectly kills Petyr.
    • The werewolf pack shows up again after the Unholy Masquerade, on the night of the full moon, resulting in Stu being turned.
  • Coming-Out Story: Parodied. A little after being turned into a vampire, Nick invites Stu over and comes out as a vampire. Stu is... amazingly understanding and not at all freaked out.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: After Nick's flagrant violations against the flatmates result in his banishment "indefinitely" note , Nick is also subjected to a "really harsh punishment" called the Procession of Shame... Nick stands still while the other three vampires walk around him in a circle, pointing at him, sternly remarking, "Shame" (and even "bad vampire").
  • Cursed with Awesome: All the main characters don't mind being vampires. Aside from the few inconveniences, they seem to enjoy their (un)lives. Nick's biggest complaint is that he can no longer eat chips/fries without getting violently ill.
    Nick: Don't believe the hype.
  • The Dandy: Viago. He's even referred to this by Vladislav.
    Vladislav: He was an 18th-century dandy, so he can be very fussy.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Implied. A scene shows Viago entering his coffin with the photo of the woman he loved decades ago. After a few seconds, the coffin's lid starts to tremble suspiciously.
  • Disney Death: Stu appears to be killed by werewolves at the very end. However, he survived and was turned into a werewolf himself.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The zombie asking very furtively if Stu is "pre-deceased" strongly resembles an older gay man hitting on a younger man.
    • Nick deliberating over telling Stu that he's a vampire does resemble an friend contemplating on coming out to his best friend.
    • Viago's costumes getting a frigid reception is reminiscent to how blackface is discouraged. For extra clarity, Viago's costumes included Whoopi Goldeberg in Sister Act and Blade. The werewolves taking offense to Vlad's fur coat also has undertones of cultural appropriation.
  • The Dreaded: The Beast, a.k.a Vladislav's nemesis, is accompanied by ominous music and imagery whenever brought up, as well as images of a horrifying creature that is a melding of a human and several other animals. Turns out she's a relatively normal looking vampire, and Vladislav's ex-girlfriend.
  • Dull Surprise: Nick takes being turned into a vampire with only minor bemusement. Stu is also pretty chill with his best friend becoming a vampire.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Invoked by Viago when two police investigators come knocking: he hypnotises them to see nothing out of the ordinary, so they notice fairly ordinary problems in the house (i.e. the lack of smoke alarms) but fail to notice Petyr's burned corpse, and assume the dead vampire hunter is just asleep.
  • From Bad to Worse: At the climax the main characters barely manage to escape the Unholy Masquerade with Stu and the camera crew. Then they run into the werewolves who immediately attack them.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: When we first see the werewolves, they are in human form and are mocked by the main characters for not swearing, wearing track suits, and generally being even bigger losers than them. The next time they run into them, it's just before their transformation and the main characters have to flee before they turn into monsters. This results in Stu being nearly killed. Subverted in that the werewolves are pretty nice guys who don't want to hurt anyone, even if they still do.
  • Frozen Fashion Sense: The vampires still hold fast to the trends form their respective time periods.
  • Fur Against Fang: Downplayed. The vampires and werewolves don't regularly come to blows, but neither really like each other and still see fit to mock and belittle each other whenever they cross paths. However, thanks to Stu turning into a werewolf at the end, both the vampires and the lycanthropes become friends.
  • Ghostapo: Deacon was apparently a member of a "secret Nazi vampire army".
  • Glove Slap: Viago slaps one of the werewolves with a glove when they cross paths with the werewolf pack. The werewolves mostly just seem confused by this.
  • Hallway Fight: Nick and Deacon get into a fight in the hall of the apartment and start climbing the walls and ceiling.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Peytr turns Nick, who spills the vampire's address to a vampire-hunter that gets him killed.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Shortly after learning how to text, Viago sends Deacon a message that a "crucifix is behind [him]." The joke is that Deacon flinches while checking. Later on, when the Vampire Hunter accidentally kills Petyr, he is shown having a necklace with a crucifix which causes Deacon to freak out while Vladislav attempts to cover it.
    • The intro also states each member of the camera crew is wearing a crucifix to keep themselves safe from vampires. Unfortunately for one of the crew members, this protection does not extend to werewolves.
  • Hufflepuff House: Witches, zombies, banshees and other supernatural groups besides the vampires and werewolves are mentioned and glimpsed.
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad:
    • Inverted, Deacon describes the horrific fashion in which he was turned, having been carried off by a winged monster into a creepy castle, fed upon to the verge of death, forced to drink said monster's foul vampire blood... only to point off camera and say that he and Petyr have been friends ever since.
    • For his part, Nick seems to have been on similarly good terms with Petyr, talking to him about his frustration that everyone likes Stu more than him, and even managing to convince him not to eat Stu.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Lampshaded by Nick when the other vampires criticize him for using his powers in public:
    Deacon: The neighbours can see you flying around the house. You want to draw attention to the house, hmm?
    Nick: You've got a whole documentary crew following you around!
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Viago says he wanted to kill Catherine's new husband and drain him of blood, but didn't when he saw how happy she was, and almost invokes the trope verbatim.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: All the main vampires shown in the movie can hypnotize humans. The effects can range from controlling their actions, putting them in a trance, blocking out their senses, or something as complicated as equipping them with a Weirdness Censor.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Deacon is lazy, smug and a Mean Boss to Jackie, and, not least, a former Nazi and completely unrepentant about this fact, but like the rest of the gang, enjoys Stu's company. Later on, when Petyr catches fire, he's the first to try and rush in and save him despite the strong chance of getting killed. And towards the end of the movie, he tries to console Nick after Stu (temporarily) dies at the hands of the werewolves.
    • Vladislav is generally somewhat surly and low energy, but is otherwise fairly easy going and open minded.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: In keeping with the documentary style, the illustrations of monsters and bats shown throughout typically have this.
  • Kill Steal: Petyr nabs a fleeing victim before Vlad, Viago and Deacon can catch him. Their reaction is accordingly annoyed.
  • Laugh with Me!: During the credits, there's a scene in which the alpha male of the werewolves gloats that the others always laugh at his jokes and if they don't, he makes sure they do. One of the werewolves laughs out of turn and is immediately scolded and warned to pay attention.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Vladislav has the pale skin, long, scraggly black hair and sunken eyes to fit this trope to a T, though his mustache is also evocative of Vlad the Impaler's.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Petyr, seemingly due to his immense age (8000 years old). The other, younger vampires are pallid but otherwise human looking, though Vladislav starts to look very decrepit when he's feeling particularly down before the big gala event.
  • The Masquerade: The vampires need to keep their existence a secret. So when Nick goes around blabbing about his vampirism to everyone, they get very pissed.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Viago's former love was a young woman when they met (Viago himself being closer to 400), and eventually is turned into a vampire so they can finally be together, despite being ninety-six.
  • Metaphorgotten:
    Vladislav: [on drinking the blood of virgins] I think of it like this. If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.
  • Mockumentary: The movie's style.
  • Must Be Invited: This makes it very awkward for the guys when they're trying to get into nightclubs.
    • Vladislav tries to circumvent this limitation when hunting by hypnotizing people alone inside their homes, but has limited success since their gaze is typically focused on the television.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: When Stu describes his job as a software developer at the undead masquerade in an attempt to keep them from eating him, he inadvertently only succeeds in tempting them more by making them come to the conclusion that he's a virgin.
  • Nice Guy: Stu is quiet, polite and affable and so nice even a Jerkass like Deacon takes a liking to him. So much so that not only do the werewolves like him, but he actually manages to bring the two groups together with their mutual love of Stu.
    • Viago is also surprisingly chipper and friendly for a three hundred year old bloodsucker.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The werewolves, who unlike the other supernatural creatures in the film, do not wish to inflict harm, but cannot help it when transformed. They engage in breathing exercises to calm down and stop themselves transforming, and go as far as to chain themselves to trees during the full moon.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're vampires plagued with everyday problems and prone to petty arguments over chores and rent.
  • The Older Immortal: Petyr is around 8000 years old, and considerably different looking to any other vampire we see. He is also heavily implied to (and in the cases of Deacon and Nick, outright confirmed to) have been responsible for turning every single one of the main four into vampires.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The pack of lycanthropes we see have heightened senses and some slightly feral habits in human form, but only assume full, out-of-control Man-Beast form during the full moon. They do have an Alpha Male they look to for leadership and guidance, who like Viago, is usually more Affably Evil in keeping a bunch of wild punks on short leash, and asks them to refrain from swearing to keep them from getting angrier and transforming. They're also big believers in "fur is murder".
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The "old" ones are pretty eloquent and polite, while the new ones' vocabulary are dominated by groans and moans.
  • Pet the Dog: Petyr is by far the most antisocial of the bunch. But when Nick explains that he shouldn't turn Stu because he's a vegetarian, Petyr nods in understanding.
  • Pivotal Wake Up: The movie starts with one. Since the movie is a parody and the vampire in question is Affably Evil, the levitation is sheepish and silly.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Deacon was a Nazi at one point and Vlad is okay with slavery. The vampire's beef with werewolves is also a case of Fantastic Racism, especially with Vlad wearing a fur coat around them.
  • The Quiet One: Petyr doesn't speak at all (preferring to talk in hissing and screeching noises), while Stu just keeps to himself.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • When you don't have a reflection and are increasingly out of touch with modern times, it can be quite hard to dress stylishly for a night out on the town. It doesn't help if your wardrobe mostly consists of the clothes of your former victims.
    • After countless victims spilling blood over their house, Viago learns to put towels and newspaper down before going for the kill (and insists that his flatmates do the same). And hitting the main artery on the neck makes things very messy.
    • Also Nick telling a whole bunch of people he's a vampire leads to a vampire hunter tracking down the flat and killing Petyr by dumb luck.
    • Really, the film's humor primarily runs on this trope and Villains Out Shopping, as mentioned below. Almost every joke boils down to "how does this regular everyday activity work when you live by vampire rules?"
    • One of the cameramen keeps up with the fleeing vampires when the werewolves start to transform, while the other one sticks around to get footage of their transformations. The one who sticks around gets mauled to death.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The ages of each vampire generally correlate with their personality and appearance. The just under two-hundred-year-old Deacon looks and acts like a moody twenty-something, the close to four-hundred-year-old Viago looks and acts like an uptight thirty-something, the over eight-hundred-year-old Vladislav looks and acts like a bitter middle-aged man, and the eight-thousand-year-old Petyr looks and acts like a decrepit old man.
    • And the very recently turned Nick acts childish at his best, and like a moody teenager at his worst. As he mostly uses his new powers to play around and brag to everyone he meets with no concern for the secrecy needed to protect them all.
  • The Renfield:
    • The long suffering Jackie is Deacon's "familiar", taking care of the flatmates' affairs in order to — eventually — be turned into a vampire. It becomes increasingly clear Deacon has no plans to ever live up to his end of the deal, and he's very annoyed when Nick sires her instead.
    • Viago also had a minion whom he got to ship him to New Zealand in order to go after his love, Katherine — but unfortunately said minion got the postage wrong...
  • Retired Monster: Vladislav was once one of the most feared vampires around. A bad encounter with the monster called The Beast, his ex-girlfriend, has left him pretty broken down.
  • Running Gag: Deacon's mispronunciation of Spaghetti as "Bisgetti."
  • Shout-Out: The film is loaded with references to most of the major vampire films of the last century. There are quite many references to Interview with the Vampire, 90's Dracula and The Lost Boys, since according to Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement these were their favourite vampire movies.
    • The film starts with a "rising out of the coffin" scene a la Nosferatu, and Petyr Looks Like Orlok.
    • Each of the central characters mimic staple vampire films: Petyr is Nosferatu, Deacon is 30's Dracula, Vladislav is 90's Dracula, Viago is Interview with the Vampire, and Nick is Twilight - Nick even refers to himself as Twilight a few times, much to the annoyance of Deacon.
    • A few scenes resemble Bram Stoker's Dracula. Vladislav has the extreme widow's peak from Bram Stoker's Dracula, with a lot of Classical Movie Vampire mixed in. Nick vomiting huge gouts of blood for a comically long time after eating a single chip strongly resembles the staking of Lucy in Bram Stoker's Dracula, which itself was parodied in Mel Brooks's Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Jemaine Clement said in interviews that he based Vladislav on Dracula as played by Gary Oldman.
    • There's also the practical joke that the vampires play on their victims where they hypnotize them into thinking the spaghetti they're eating is worms, which they outright admit they stole from The Lost Boys.
    • Viago and Nick hold up a cut lemon and a piece of cloth to imitate Pac-Man in the mirror since they have no reflections.
    • The tag line on the posters is "Some interviews with some vampires."
    • Viago previously attended the Unholy Masquerade as Whoopi Goldberg's character from Sister Act, and Deacon insists his newest outfit choice of Blade is inappropriate.
    • The Hallway Fight between Nick and Deacon goes up the walls and across the ceiling, which seems to be a parody of an identical gravity-defying hallway fight in Inception.
    • Stu amazes the vampires by showing them footage of the sunrise, something none of them have seen in centuries—Interview with the Vampire again, and also the TV movie that inspired Forever Knight.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • The film pairs Nick's projectile blood vomiting with, of all things, El Condor Pasa.
  • The Stinger: A closeup shot of Deacon, who attempts to trance the audience into forgetting what they saw in the movie.
  • The Stoic: Stu has very little dialogue despite being present in very confusing or dangerous situations. He's just that chill.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: After Stu's apparent death and a monologue from Deacon on the sorrow of watching all one's friends age and die as one lives on forever, it looks like the movie will end on a down note... but then it turns out, Stu wasn't killed by werewolves, just turned and accepted into the pack! And to top things off, Viago reunites with and turns his true love, Katherine.
  • Team Mom: Viago, who tries to organize household chores, wakes everyone up in the evening in a very sweet and motherly fashion, and seems to take care of Petyr.
    • In an interview, Waititi refers to Viago as the mother of the group, while Vladislav is the dad, and Deacon is the teenage son. He also says that his portrayal of Viago was partially based on his own mother.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Fittingly, "Bad Boy" Deacon was a Nazi Vampire. He doesn't even treat it as an Old Shame. Of course, this isn't that much of an alternate continuity, so when the Third Reich fell, and the Allies' paranormal unit captured him, he fled or was deported out of Europe.
  • Token Human: Stu. He's not anyone's familiar, but the main characters like him so much that they let him stay.
  • Undead Child: Parodied with Vladislav, who claims to have become a vampire at sixteen and thus to look eternally sixteen. Vladislav is played by Jemaine Clement, who was forty at the time and definitely doesn't look that young.
    • The gang also knows two vampire girls whose main feeding strategy seems to be ambushing pedophiles.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Implied. At the beginning, when Viago is waking the others up for the flat meeting, he opens Vladislav's door to find him in the middle of an orgy with several women.
  • Vampire Hunter: Newly-turned vampire Nick keeps revealing the fact that he's a vampire to strangers, one of whom claims to be a vampire hunter. It turns out he wasn't lying — he really is a vampire hunter and indirectly causes the death of Petyr, an ancient vampire who was also one of Nick's flatmates.
  • Vampires Own Nightclubs: But not a very good one.
  • Vampires Sleep in Coffins: The vampire roommates sleeping in coffins, with the 8000 year old vampire Petyr sleeping in a stone coffin. One scene has Viago place a picture of a woman he loved years ago inside his coffin, and then the coffin lid shakes violently, implying that Viago is "busy".
  • Vampire Vords: Deliberately invoked with Vladislav, Deacon, and Viago.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Averted. Though they apparently can feed on animals (with Viago feeding Petyr a live chicken one morning) they all seem to only feed on people. Hilariously, Nick talks to Petyr about not turning Stu, because since he's an actual vegetarian it would just be awful for him and anyone around.
  • Villains Out Shopping: The whole movie is this. When the vampires aren't out stalking prey, they're arguing over who does what chores at home, trying to club and barhop (with limited success), or learning about modern day technology.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: The Beast is introduced as The Dreaded, but once we meet her, it's made clear that Vlad's side of the story is heavily biased, as she doesn't seem more malicious than any other vampire introduced so far.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Vampires prefer virgin meals. It's not a requirement, it's just a taste most of them share.
    Vladislav: I think of it like this. If you're going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew nobody had fucked it.
  • The Voiceless: Petyr doesn't speak throughout the whole movie and seems basically animalistic, though Deacon's account of when Petyr turned him into a vampire implies that he can speak.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: After vampire Nick eats a chip, he violently vomits blood in full view of the camera.
  • Warm Bloodbags Are Everywhere: Nick states he's very, very tempted to eat Stu. But he won't, even though he does smell delicious. Because they're best mates, and best mates don't eat each other. With Stu sitting right beside him.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Deacon specifically says that he doesn't want Jackie to bring children for them to feed on.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Viago's given age is about a century too old for an "18th-century dandy".
  • Younger Than They Look: Vladislav was apparently made into a vampire when he was sixteen years old, and remains physically sixteen as a result. Despite this, he both looks and acts like a middle-aged man. He claims this wasn't at all uncommon in his time.


Video Example(s):


What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Petyr's introduction scene

Example of:

Main / LooksLikeOrlok