What We Do in the Shadows
What We Do in the Shadows , not rated, comedy/horror, Center for Contemporary Arts, 3 chiles
It’s been over two years since the last installment of the Twilight saga was unleashed on the world, so moviegoers would be forgiven for thinking that the vampire craze is (at long last!) passé. But What We Do in the Shadows , a New Zealand-produced mockumentary that cleverly traffics in vampire clichés, reinvigorates the genre.
The setup is classic sitcom with a twist: Vampires Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) are flatmates in Wellington. In their basement dwells the mostly mute, chicken-devouring Petyr (Ben Fransham), a Nosferatu type who, at eight thousand years old, is the eldest and crudest of the bunch. There’s no plot, really — most of the story is an excuse for dude-centric jokes, like pissing contests with the local werewolf gang, which references Twilight (vampires can’t stand the way werewolves smell), and West Side Story -style posturing in dark alleys.
At about 85 minutes, Shadows is nearly too long (it would have succeeded as a 10-minute sketch), but it maintains appeal through absurdity and sheer charm. This is a silly movie in the best sense of the word.
Shadows was written and directed by Waititi and Clement, known best in this country for their work on the short-lived HBO cult favorite Flight
of the Conchords , in which Clement also co-starred. ( Conchords fans will be pleased to see Rhys Darby in the role of the werewolf alpha male.) In Conchords , Clement plays a fictitious version of himself, a struggling musician living with his best friend/bandmate, Bret, in Brooklyn. As Kiwis in New York, the two are always slightly out of step, their sensibilities not quite translating to mainstream America. In Shadows , the vampires face a similarly awkward social exile: They want to go dancing at clubs, but this is difficult, because they must first be invited in. They’re friendly and personable, but many acquaintances end up as sustenance.
Throughout the movie, vampire conventions are employed: blood gushing from a bitten artery; waking sleepily at 6 p.m. from coffin slumber; an untimely death in the sunlight; and there is even a nod to ’80s classic
The Lost Boys — the trio likes to surprise unwitting human dinner guests by turning spaghetti into worms via hypnosis. But unlike that film (and Twilight , Interview With the Vampire , and even Dracula ), Shadows refuses to take itself seriously. It’s inappropriate and often uproarious: We learn that Deacon was a Nazi; Vladislav, who grew up in medieval times, suggests obtaining slaves to clean the house; and the three even have their own band — a very bad one. Shadows continues in the proud tradition of Young
Frankenstein — all spoof and bluster — managing, even this far past the vampire-saturation point, to be improbably hilarious.
Do you poop out at parties? Taika Waititi