What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

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This is an outstanding film. I loved it. It’s clever, quick and zany from start to finish and the horror comedy genre is (v)amped up to the max with a neat documentary style taking over proceedings. All the ideas are perfectly executed, the cast have fun and fleshed out personas and the low budget New Zealand production adds to the weird charm.

In Wellington, four vampires flat share and are being documented by a film crew in the run up to an Undead Masquerade Ball. Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) are four contrasting bloodsuckers in age and lifestyle and through the camera we see them deal with nights out, humans, werewolves and a new vampire called Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer).

It’s a 80 minute or so feature but it works being snappy and throughout there are some slick and yet silly visuals that include flying, shape-shifting and mirrors. The typical tropes of vampire lore are pushed into comedic satire which is a great thing to watch as we see how vampires flat-sharing cope in a new modern age. In particular seeing them traipse around trying to get invited into a nightclub thanks to that age old rule is a smart and funny sequence.

The fashion and look of the entire movie is spot on and as they’re trapped in their old frills and bygone world you really sense the vampire environment they’re living in. It’s a humourous and fresh plot device to have a human come in and shake things up, introducing them to technology and more fun arrives from that. Each vampire has their own image travelling from dandy to a sight gag of Petyr being akin to Count Orlok. Their home is a shadowy flat and to be honest the streets of Te Aro look dingy making it feel more oppressing for these vampires that you cannot help but get attached to.

They’re not heroes or even anti-heroes, they’re not villains either. They’re just bumbling fools and friends caught up in their undead presence and dealing with it as best they can. The majority of humour comes from real life problems affecting their living dead status. Dirty dishes, bloody sofas, whining servants and spats with wolves all jump into the mix to create this very funny mockumentary.

Plan 9 Music does a lot to immerse you into this strange world, the Romanian sounding music is at once light but dark. It’s a bouncy vibe that every now and then shifts into the horror side, which is effective. The film may never scare or intend to but there are some moments that would be jumpy if not in a satirical situation. Blood is used to over effect in the same vein as Raimi and the extreme gore of ‘The Evil Dead’ and the music, make-up and costuming crew have a lot to take credit for as it truly makes the film that more convincing.

It may be a sort of simple idea concocted and stretched to movie length and in places it may repeat notions but I never grew tired, there is nearly some laugh every minute or so, the dead pan delivery from the actors makes it even better and the story is a fun ride to intrude in on, at least it feels that way thanks to the camera being like our eye to events. One stand out concept is in werewolf/vampire stand offs and the ‘werewolves not swear-wolves’ is damn hilarious, their childish insults and threats make their crossovers the highlight of the film.

Jemaine Clement is always straight man funny and as 862 year old Vladislav, obsessed with poking, torture and un PC thoughts in general he is a great character to watch, even if his Beast encounter is a little lackluster. Taika Waititi is fantastic as the camp showman of the group with a back story that does actually hinge on being touching at times, his wide eyed stare and youthful grin really make the character burst into colour. Jonathan Brugh is the rebel of the lot as they say and he causes the most friction but has fun with it, erotic dancing and bat fights can be splendidly added to his CV! Rhys Darby is a joyful if not small addition as lead werewolf and his comedic timing and interaction with the characters make him a necessary and welcome bite to the story.

I laughed out loud more than I expected to, age jokes, unflinching responses, vampire messing around all really come into their own in this dazzling take on a horror/comedy mockumentary. Honestly one of the cleverest yet stupidest ideas in one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a while. Forever amusing, a spoof to remember.

8.5/10

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