RATING |

In Twilight, in True Blood, in Hammer horror titles and Draculas down through the decades, vampires have functioned as a metaphor for sexual hunger, passion above reason, seduction, temptation, addiction, infection, and the lure of immortality, not to mention the pluses of pointy dentition.

The vampires in What We Do in the Shadows are symbolic of something else altogether: epic unkemptness.

A you-are-there mockumentary on a trio of bloodsuckers who inhabit a creaky abode in Wellington, New Zealand, What We Do in the Shadows is all about the day-to-day (well, night-to-night) business of deciding whose turn it is to do the dishes or vacuum the stairs.

It's a cheerfully horrific affair, a sanguine comedy that feels more than a bit like a Christopher Guest farce or an elaborate Monty Python sketch, imprinted with the Kiwi comic sensibilities of co-directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (their joint credentials, both behind and in front of the camera, include TV's Flight of the Conchords and the misfit romance Eagle vs. Shark).

Technically, there are four housemates in What We Do in the Shadows. Viago (Waititi), an 18th-century dandy, is upset that the layabout Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) doesn't carry his weight when it comes to household chores. Deacon fancies himself a bit of a rock star, striking poses and, incongruously, knitting up a storm.

Then there is Vladislav (Clement), with his Transylvanian accent and a thing for blood-red satin sheets. Vladislav has a torture chamber and a centuries-old reputation of carnage and debauchery to uphold, but down in the basement, behind a stone door, an even older vampire lurks: Petyr (Ben Fransham), a rotting-flesh, Nosferatu-esque kind of guy who keeps to himself, except when he doesn't, sinking his fangs into an innocent Wellingtonian, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer).

With the emergence of a newbie vampire, the three housemates offer counsel, and everyone goes out on the town, hitting the dance clubs and running into a pack of werewolves. (The werewolves are led by Rhys Darby, who played Murray, the band manager in Flight of the Conchords, in a similarly earnest and dim style.)

Joining these cutups are Stu (Stuart Rutherford), a non-vampire with whom the vampires become enamored; Jackie (Jackie van Beek), a vampire "familiar" who runs errands for the lads; and a pair of police officers (Karen O'Leary, Mike Minogue) who appear at their doorstep to investigate complaints of noise and funny smells.

And funny is the operative word.

What We Do in the Shadows *** (Out of four stars)

Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. With Clement, Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Stuart Rutherford. Distributed by Paladin Film.

Running time: 1 hour, 25 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (comic violence, adult themes).

Playing at: Ritz Bourse.EndText

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