Sunday, December 21, 2014

FILM REVIEW: What We Do in the Shadows (2014)


The best horror/comedy mockumentary about vampires ever to come from New Zealand!

What We Do in the Shadows  is a surprise joy of a film. I haven't laughed this much in years. And yet, it is a stirring account of a small family of vampires that really delivers the feels here and there, making the experience multi-layered and genuine. It is the kind of funny only reserved for classics and masterpieces of the sub genre. Ladies and Deviants...What We Do in the Shadows  will be forever regarded as a true classic of horror/comedy. Maybe.

Honestly, I didn't even think I was gonna remotely like the film, never mind love the fuck out of it. The trailers certainly don't do it the justice it deserves. This is a film that you just have to give a leap of faith to and surrender completely in order to fully appreciate everything it throws at you. Co-writers, directors and stars Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi certainly give you their unbridled talent with this one, not only delivering one of the most hilarious genre films of all time...but, also revealing the one ingredient that helps make films like this stand through the test of time: heart. What We Do in the Shadows  does so much more than just make a funny. It really shows you what it's like to live as a vampire in modern times with technology pushing everything aside and sucking the purity from all of the romance. Kind of like the film Only Lovers Left Alive...only waaaay funnier. You end up loving all of these characters and wanting so much more of them.


The premise is as simple as it gets. Four vampires who share a flat in Wellington, New Zealand agree to have a camera crew come into their world and follow them around, documenting their every day---errr...night exploits for a sort of documentary kind of Real World thing. That's pretty much it. And while, admittedly, the description sounds a bit silly and dumb....it really is...but, it still all manages to come off great. Just the way the film is approached and treated feels so much deeper than other films in this little sub genre. It feels like it has so many layers to it and the characters are given so much more life, despite them being undead bloodsuckers. I mean, at the end of the day it's all mockumentary...which, I feel has always been a tough type of cookie to crack. However, the dynamic duo of Clement and Waititi get it right...and so much more.

The difference here is the great writing and the comedic timing. I've always been of the opinion that the comedy found footage/mockumentary is a frickin' tricky thing to pull off. I mean...to be able to duplicate the feeling of something that is supposed to happen genuinely in real-time...when it is obviously staged...is a crazy thing to be able to pull off seamlessly. Never mind adding genre elements into the mix. There's a great scene where one of the vampires, 379 year old Viago (played wonderfully by Taika Waititi) shows us how he kills off a victim for his dinner and things go, well...awkwardly. And it is fucking hilarious. And it is all perfect comedic timing. It is a cinematic marvel that this is done consistently for a whole hour and a half.


Speaking of the cast...brilliant. Each one of the characters is a fun caricature on some legend from the genre archives. Deacon (played by Jonathan Brugh) is a 183 year old vampire who fancies himself a young, sexy bad boy. Vladislav "The Poker" (played awesomely by Jermaine Clement) is an 862 year old hilarious take on Vlad "The Impaler". He also riffs on some of Dracula's elements which are sure to entice some guffaws here and there. I mentioned Viago above...and it is important to note that he is sort of the vampire that keeps everyone in line. Waititi's take on the 18th century Dandy turned vampire is nothing short of masterful. My favorite of the bunch is the 8,000 year old antisocial vampire Petyr (played hilariously by Ben Fransham) who is obviously going for a Nosferatu flavor. They all bring their own stamp to the film and are a joy to watch in every goddamn scene. I would go so far as to say that the whole damn cast is fucking great.

The special FX is pretty cool, as well, finding that careful balance of cheaply awkward and impressively awesome all in one beat. There's a great scene where a newly-made vampire hipster Nick (played by Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) gets into a tussle with Deacon and they end up doing the revolving room trick that strikes this perfect balance of impressive and ludicrous. It's all great stuff!

Look...I'm not saying that What We Do in the Shadows  is some masterpiece of cinema, or anything. But, it kind of is. It is highly entertaining for those who dig their mockumentary with a touch of Monty Python. For fans of The Flight of the Conchords, this one's a no-brainer. And for those that are looking for the best Kiwi horror/comedy mockumentary of all-times....this is it. Maybe that's high praise because, in all reality, I haven't watched too many Kiwi horror/comedy mockumentaries. But, What We Do in the Shadows  really struck a chord in me. It's funny, it's sad...and it's heartwarming...all at once. One of the best of the year. And, oh my Jesus, Stu is fucking awesome!



Thanks for reading,

bryan.




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