British Board of Film Classification

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What We Do In The Shadows

Film information

  • What We Do In The Shadows

  • Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi

  • Status: 15 uncut

  • Year: 2014

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

What We Do In The Shadows is a New Zealand mock-documentary from the creators of the TV comedy series, Flight Of The Conchords. It follows the lives of three vampires who find modern life has them struggling with mundane tasks like paying rent, keeping up with household chores, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.

The film arrived at BBFC for classification in October 2014, without any category request, although a trailer for the film was already classified 15. The Examiners viewing the film noted strong language and strong bloody violence as the category-defining issues. Defining issues are those which secure the age rating, although many films feature other content which is discussed by Examiners, and might be of interest to parents or viewers. The BBFC always records this information in BBFCinsight. We use the BBFC Classification Guidelines, current research and the law as the basis for all decision making, while also bearing in mind recent classification decisions for similar works.

What We Do In The Shadows contains around thirteen uses of strong language ('f**k' etc), some of it used in a comically aggressive context. The context in which an issue is presented is central to the question of its acceptability, as is the work's target audience - who is likely to want to watch this film, and to whom it 'speaks'.

Under BBFC Classification Guidelines, this level of strong language is sufficient to establish 15 as the baseline category. The examining team noted there is no special contextual justification for the strong language in the film, unlike in The King’s Speech, classified 12A in 2010, in which strong language was used exclusively in a speech therapy context. Other uses of bad language in the film are more moderate (eg. 'cock', 'dick', 'dickhead' and 'bitch').

What We Do In The Shadows also contains scenes of strong violence. The vampires attack people, bite their necks and drink their blood, with some large blood spurts and blood covering clothing and rooms, while fights between vampires and other supernatural beings, such as werewolves, include impaling and the infliction of some gory injuries. We see a chain, naked human in a vampire's dungeon, with the implication he is to be tortured, and a vampire burning up in sunlight.

The level of bloody violence was too strong and detailed for a 12A under current BBFC Classification Guidelines. However, we consider films and scenes with strong violence and gore, we also take into account mitigating factors such as the fantastical nature of the work, and a comic tone – as is the case in What We Do In The Shadows. We therefore classified the film at 15, with the BBFCinsight explaining the category-defining issues. Precedents for passing similar films with bloody violence at the 15 category include the zombie comedy Shaun Of The Dead and science fiction comedy Attack The Block.

When the BBFC viewed the video version of the film in early 2015, it was identical in content to the theatrical release and was duly classified 15. Into Film selected What We Do In The Shadows for screening at the Into Film Festival in 2015.