Feb 11, 2015

What We Do In The Shadows

Probably the sweetest vampire movie ever made (and certainly the best vampire movie made with Kickstarter), What We Do In The Shadows is reminiscent of Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers, but it is more of this day and age. It is a very funny, well made documentary about a trio of vampire roommates living in New Zealand, written, acted and directed by Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, both from the unparalleled Flight of The Conchords.
A documentary camera crew gets the vampires' dispensation to follow them around in their daily, or rather nightly lives.
Viago (Waititi) is an adorable 18th century romantic who is a clean freak, and the den mother. Deacon (Jonathan Burgh) is the rebellious one, a bit of a slob with a Nazi past who likes to knit, and Vladislav (Clement) is like an Elvis figure (he looks like singer Engelbert Humperdinck) with a fading penchant for torture. Petyr is a dead ringer for Nosferatu and the oldest of them all. He is not very social.
They bicker about house chores and endure the complicated rules that govern them (aversion to sunlight, stakes, crucifixes, etc), at odds with life in modern Wellington.
The vampires, whom one immediately feels like calling "the guys", are fully individuated characters with peculiar quirks and feelings. They are friends, they had girlfriends, they like people. They are desperate to do certain things, like get into nightclubs. They are not unduly ravenous, and at least Viago is a considerate eater, although for a clean freak, he's a bit messy. Some humans (like Jackie, a housewife and submissive servant of Deacon), want to be bitten so that they can be immortal, but vampires are fickle and they don't always oblige. Some, like Nick, get bitten and learn the hard way that they cannot eat chips anymore and they cannot go around telling everyone they are vampires. There is also a human called Stu (sounds like Stew) who's Nick's best friend and who is almost irresistibly plump and juicy. A clique of werewolves looks suspiciously like hipsters.
The tone is smart and sweet, and many delightful and imaginative details, visual gags and fine jokes bear repeated viewings. It is no wonder that this movie has won several audience awards at festivals. It has a lovely spirit, without vulgarity, no gross, lame humor and is surprisingly well made, for the small budget. It has a great music score and it also makes wonderful use of the ancient paraphernalia of evil. And of snapshots taken through the guys' eternal lives.
According to medieval representations, the guys are supposed to be super bad, but they are adorbs. What We Do In The Shadows is far more subtle, smart, and knowing than most American comedies, and at the same time it is super accessible, a testament to the fact that you don't need millions of dollars to make a superior comedy (or any movie, for that matter). A real charmer.

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