Friday, 24 November 2017

Review: 'What We Do in the Shadows' (2014) - Documentary and Mocumentary

What We Do in the Shadows is a mocumentary released in 2014 and was directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. The film follows a group of vampires, Viago, Vladislav, Deacon and Petyr based in New Zealand as they live their everyday life. They all look relativley human despite being several hundreds of years apart, yet Petyr is the only one who looks more like a monster. Whilst being followed by a film crew, we meet, Nick and his best friend Stu. We follow them right up to the Day of the Dead Party, in which things begin to go very wrong. But what is a mocumentary? A mocumentary is a TV programme or film that aims to satirise the more commonly known documentary genre, and What We Do in the Shadows is a perfect example of this. 

The film is jam packed with mocumentary ideologies such as the use of interviews and hidden camera shots, along with a fictitious storyline. Parts of the film were scripted and others were improvised and it plays on a range of extreme stereotypes. But whilst the film focuses on being incredibly silly, ''here and there a profound melancholy underscores the horseplay, with immortal angst, romantic longings and murderous guilt popping up and giving the film some existential weight.'' - Godfrey (2014). The mix of the two juxtaposing themes, begins the play with what is known, and begins to tip what the audience is used to right onto its head.

It is clear from the onset that the purpose of this film is to entertain. It presents the world as real, creating a sense of reality for the audience. Furthermore, it is based in a modern setting; the world the audience is familiar with. By making the audience feel at home, they immediately have their attention. This definitively sets it apart from the genre's well known origins, 'documentary', which focuses much more on the accurate representation of the world we live in. It is a 'direct observation'. Although it is argueable that this is not true, and the ''actuality is submitted to the creativity of the filmmaker, who manipulates it through more or less deliberate processes of selection and association, in order to go beyond the boundaries of direct observation, and to give it a precise, often politically-oriented meaning.'' - Sapino (2011).

Whilst What We Do in the Shadows retains lots of 'documentary' ideologies, it also pushes the boundaries to the extreme to create a mocumentary. The film is successful in its attempt to satirise the entire genre to create a comedy, and in the way it challenges the audience's current expectations of the documentary genre.


Godfrey, A. (2017). What We Do In The Shadows: the return of the living deadpan. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 24 Nov. 2017].
Sapino, R. (2011). What is a Documentary Film: Discussion of the Genre.. Undergraduate. Freie Universit├Ąt, Berlin.


Morton, D. (2017). What We Do in the Shadows – Metropolis Magazine. [online] Metropolis Magazine. Available at: [Accessed 24 Nov. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). What We Do in the Shadows - International Trailer. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Nov. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). What We Do in the Shadows Original Short Film. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Nov. 2017].

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