WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (October 10th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
If there is one film that I have been told to watch more than any other over the last couple of years, it's What We Do in the Shadows. Everyone that has seen it seems to love it and I've got no real excuse for not watching it quite frankly, other than the slightly lame excuse that horror-comedy is not my favourite sub-genre and I have never quite understood the appeal of Flight of the Conchords – although I've probably not seen enough to make a definitive judgement on that. But after enduring I, Frankenstein yesterday I figured I could do with some light relief so decided to take the plunge.
For those who haven't seen the film yet (what have you been waiting for? It's brilliant!), WWDITS is a mockumentary that chronicles the life and adventures of four vampires who share a flat together. We have Viago (Taika Waititi), a neurotic dandy from the 18th century, Vladislav (who is Vlad the Impaler basically), and Deacon who at 183 years of age is the youngest of the group and a bit of a hothead. The oldest member of the gang is Petyr, an 8000 vampire who looks suspiciously like Nosferatu and likes to keep himself to himself. We watch them as they try and fit in with modern life, squabble over household chores and lure unsuspecting people back to their apartment to eat.
Anyone expecting any semblance of cohesive plot are going to be frustrated with this. But then again, you're probably watching the wrong film. Quite frankly, I could just watch these characters do some ironing for an hour and a half. Comedy horror isn't an easy thing to get right but in reality this is really a comedy that just happens to be about vampires. There is some blood and gore in here but it's all done in such an absurd way that none of it is taken seriously. In one scene Viago bites a woman in the neck in the wrong place (after he has carefully laid down newspaper around her feet) and the result is a fountain of blood. Viago rues the ensuing mess that needs to be cleaned up. For the most part it's a masterclass of deadpan comedy. Spinal Tap meets Shaun of the Dead via The Office type stuff. Sure it's silly and immature but that's why it works so well. Yeah these guys are out there looking for people to drain and feast on but your rooting for them at the same time. That is mainly down to the terrific central performances from Clement, Waititi, Brugh and Gonzalez-Macuer. Special praise for the first two as they co-directed and co-wrote the movie too. It's little wonder that they're so highly rated – and why one of them got the gig to direct Thor Ragnarok (which is also bloody brilliant). Waititi's dandy vamp kind of steals the show too – his facial expressions and eye movement alone is enough to make you snort with laughter.
The beauty of the comedy comes primarily from the idea of a group of supernatural people doing very mundane and ordinary things. There's a risk that it could come off as too ridiculous and absurdist but the film manages to actually inject a few moments of poignancy amongst all the hilarity. The concept of immortality and loss is touched upon, as is the subject of loneliness. Of course these are soon punctured by something stupid like two bats having a punch up or a guy wanking himself off in a coffin but still, these moments add a little something extra. The movie also feels effortless and you get the sense that some of the lines and exchanges were probably partially improvised – and to great effect. It also rattles along as a breakneck speed too.
All in all a perfect antidote to the bucket of crud I watched yesterday. It's fun, it's clever and it doesn't take itself too seriously. And it's bloody funny too. I'm just annoyed it took me so long to see it. On to the TV series!