Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

What We Do In The Shadows

We have a new favorite “mockumentary”: “What We Do In The Shadows,” purportedly by the “Documentary Film Board of New Zealand.” It is a “reality TV” styled story, dealing with the interactions and misadventures of four male vampires, Viago (Taika Watiti), Vadislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham), who “flatshare” a crumbling house in Wellington, New Zealand. They have the usual kind of issues one might expect from four unemployed men, dealing with things such as fair division of dishwashing and cleaning. Excessive TV or video games actually aren’t issues, since, living relatively isolated lives, the most advanced entertainment machine they have is a wind-up phonograph.

Petyr, the eldest (“8,000 years old,” according to Deacon) is a Nosferatu-style monster who doesn’t talk, and exists mostly in a ‘tomb’ in the basement. Vadislav, the next oldest at a mere 800+ years, once had a fearsome reputation and power as “Vadislav the Poker,” but has lost much of his drive since having been defeated in a supposedly epic battle with his arch-foe, “The Beast.” Fastidious Viago was an 18th Century German dandy, and still dresses like it. Deacon was a peasant peddler in the 19th Century when he was turned by Petyr, whom he now considers his “best friend.”

The documentary supposedly covers six or so months of the group’s life, in which we hear the bittersweet story of Viago’s lost love, see Deacon’s exploitative relationship with his “familiar,” Jackie (Jackie van Beek) and learn how they deal with the ramifications of a certain “dinner party.”

Deacon coerces Jackie into bringing her ex-boyfriend, Nick (Cori Gonzales-Macuer) and his current girlfriend to dinner at the vampire’s house, intending that the vampires will ‘eat’ them. After excruciatingly awkward attempts at what might be called “playing with their food,” Viago, Vadislav, and Deacon attack. Nick nearly escapes, but runs into the clutches of Petyr.
A couple of days later, the vampires are nonplussed to discover that Nick is now a vampire, having been turned by Petyr instead of killed. Out of self-preservation, the vampires take Nick under their wing, trying, with poor success, to inculcate as much secrecy as they themselves manage (part of the irony, of course, is that this is all being taped by the “Documentary Board” crew, whom we never see--.) The best thing about having Nick around is his human friend, Stu (Stuart Rutherford), who’s willing to accept his friend as a vampire, and by extension becomes friends with the others, and initiates them into the mysteries of mobile phones and computers.

However, Nick is a blabbermouth, and has soon let way too many people know that he is a vampire, with some dire results. How this all works out at the climax, the annual “Unholy Masquerade” party, is the most compelling part of the film.

Laugh-out-loud funny, the film is a delirious combination of over-the-top vampire shocker and “This Is Spinal Tap,” with a healthy dollop of “Monty Python” for leavening. The vampire’s ramshackle house is a great set, and other are full of irony such as the dismal bus-station ambiance of the “vampire bar,” and the “Cathedral of Despair” where the Masquerade is held has a sign on the building saying “Victoria Bowling Club.” The costuming is a hoot, as each character tends to dress in his own idea of what a “sexy vampire” would wear. The acting is quite good for standards of broad comedy, and, for native born New Zealanders with Maori ancestry, Watiti and Clement hang on to their respective German and Transylvanian accents pretty well. Besides the pratfalls, there are some serious moments, and it is nice to see the vampires portray some emotions other than the standard “lust/hunger” we are used to. Effects, especially “flying” are surprisingly good. Of course, being a modern vampire movie, there’s a lot of blood, some of it sprayed for humorous effect—you have been warned.

Good for fans of the vampire who have a sense of humor with it, and for fans of the mockumentary genre who can stomach relatively mild horror. Although a comedy, not for the young due to the violence, gore, and coarse language.

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Tags: comedy, horror, movies
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