Wednesday 29 April 2015

What We Do in the Shadows

I’ve always loved mockumentaries. Ever since I saw the iconic classic This Is Spinal Tap, I’ve explored the ‘genre’ and found some true gems. I’ve always believed Christopher Guest to be the King of mockumentaries, having starred in Spinal Tap and gone on to direct his own classics such as A Mighty Wind, Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman. Without Christopher Guest, we’d most probably not have TV shows like The Office, Parks & Recreation and Modern Family. His films are timeless. But what’s this? Out of New Zealand comes a new instant comedy classic with a creative team who, within 85 minutes, dethrone Guest as mockumentary King. From the guys behind Flight of the Conchords comes the comedy of the year.

Directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes What We Do In The Shadows, a film in which we’re made to believe that a camera crew have been granted special access to follow the lives of a group of friends living together in an big old house. The twist? They’re vampires. Yes, vampires. Firstly there’s Viago, an ‘18th century dandy’. Viago is played by Taika Waititi, while the other half of the duo behind the film is Jemaine Clement (also one half of Flight of the Conchords), who stars in the film as Vlasislav – described as ‘a bit of a pervert’ by Viago. Jonathan Brugh plays Deacon, the ‘young bad boy of the group’. And finally there’s Petyr, played by Ben Fransham, the eldest vampire of the group and Nosferatu lookalike! The film follows their daily life, from waking up at 6pm in the evening each night and hitting the town on the prowl for victims, to bickering over who’s doing the dishes.

Now I don’t really want to tell you any of the jokes, any of the references – any more of the plot, even - because I went into this film pretty blind and had an absolutely amazing time with it. I would suggest you do the same – the film goes down some unexpected routes with hilarious surprises throughout. But for those of you interested in the more critical side of it, I’ll do my best to review it.

The pacing of the film is relentless, in the best possible way. At a mere 85 minutes, the film crams an unbelievable amount of jokes into each minute of the runtime. Before you’ve had chance to process one perfect line of dialogue or shot, another piece of comedy genius is thrown at you. Each actor brings everything they have to the table and have great chemistry – you’ll find yourself wanting to hang out with them, even with the risk of being eaten alive at the end of the night! You may even forget you’re watching a mockumentary and actually, dare I say it, start to believe in vampires.

A lot of comedy-horrors forget that the hybridising of both genres only truly works if both genres are effectively and properly performed, with most getting too silly and just becoming comedies. Not this. Some scenes are very dark, often very violent, and genuinely a little frightening - especially those featuring the character of basement-dwelling Petyr. And due to the paranormal theme of the film, there’s quite a few sequences that utilise surprisingly well-done special effects. Flying around their house, transforming into bats, rising from their coffins in the evening (having slept through the day) and committing violent dining on their victims; the visuals are strangely believable.

As I stated towards the beginning of this review, I don’t want to spoil any of the film’s unexpected delights for you dear readers. At its core, and this is in no way a criticism, the film is built around just one joke – four vampires living together in modern day New Zealand. As such, this is an extremely difficult film to review. But it’s from the one core joke that countless well observed genre references and jokes sprout. The dialogue is perfect, the cast are perfect…what the hell; I’ll say it. The film is perfect.

What We Do In The Shadows is a bloody hilarious film. Fresh and unique, you’ve never seen anything like this before. And in a time dominated by teen vampire shit like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries; What We Do In The Shadows brings back old-school vampires to the screen where they belong. The funniest film in years, without a shadow of a doubt.

What We Do In The Shadows bites deep and earns a solid 5/5.


Sam Love

What We Do in the Shadows at CeX

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