definitely needs a laundry detergent that gets out blood stains. Even though
his housemates are just as apt to cause them, he is the only one who is really good
about doing the chores. Mundane Real
World-ish conflicts get bloody in Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement’s sly
spoof What We Do in the Shadows (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
a firm agreement and the traditional protections against vampires in place, a
crew from the New Zealand Documentary Board will produce a vérité record of the
goings-on inside a vampire house somewhere in the suburbs of Wellington. Viago,
a natty Eighteenth Century gentleman, will be the most welcoming and loquacious.
We will also get to know Vladislav, an eight hundred year-old torturer and
impaler, who has mellowed and recent years, and the relatively young Deacon,
who is still trying to forget an ill-advised dalliance with the occult-obsessed
National Socialists. They also live with the 8,000 year-undead Petyr, who has
pretty much gone the full Nosferatu by now. He doesn’t do chores—and nobody
hassles him over it.
has a human familiar who periodically brings over prospective victims, but when
Petyr accidentally turns Nick, they reluctantly welcome him into their lair. They
quickly tire of his crass and obnoxious behavior, but continue to cut him slack
for the sake of his human Stu. They all grow quite fond of the computer-consultant
human, even though it was strictly against the rules to tell him about the
whole vampire thing.
Waititi and Clement worked from a broad outline, the film is essentially
improvised. It is entirely understandable if that puts you on your guard, but Shadows is consistently funny, probably
because it never feels like it is trying too hard. They just let the humor flow
naturally from the vampire Big Brother house situation. Whenever it starts to
slacken, Waititi & Clement splatter about some blood and the film is back
(a.k.a. Taika Cohen) perfectly sets the tone as the guileless and old-fashioned
Viago. Despite his ghoulishly predatory nature, he is strangely likable, as is
the entire film. Clement appropriately hams it up as the gothy Vlad and Ben
Fransham’s desiccated Petyr is creepy as heck, but the film is really about
friendship and acceptance of others’ differences.
Eventually, Wellington’s zombie population turns
up, but it is really the pack of werewolves who steal the show. Just about
every monster movie convention gets tweaked here and there, but it never feels
like Shadows is forcing the issue to
tick off another box. It is relaxed filmmaking in a way that really works.
Highly recommended for vampire fans. What
We Do in the Shadows opens this Friday (2/13) in New York, at the Landmark
Sunshine, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Labels: Movie Spoofs, New Zealand cinema, Vampire films