Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Laugh a Minute with What We Do in the Shadows: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by Video Service Corp.

Directors/writers: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.

Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brough and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer.

What We Do in the Shadows is an indie vampire film. From Wellington, New Zealand, the film follows four vampires and their sojourns into the local town and populace. Driven by bloodlust, the characters do their best to get-along, while creating lots of hilarious situations. What We Do in the Shadows is a very funny film. But, fans of horror will not find any scares here. Part a lampoon of Twilight and very spontaneous, the film offers its laughs through a series of skits. The film is one of the better comedies to come out this year.

What We Do in the Shadows is not story driven. Instead, the characters and their conflicts create much of the action. Some of that conflict comes from a pack of werewolves. The vampires and werewolves verbally duel, on the streets of Wellington. There is no real victor here, though. As well, a familiar does her best to satisfy the quartet, so that she can be turned into a vampire, herself. However, Deacon (Jonathan Brough) just wants to utilize her free labour. The character interactions are often humourous. Though, there is very little plot here, to describe. A finale, involving an "Unholy Masquerade" pushes for a climax. But, this series of scenes are put together, last minute. There are very few plot points here; still, there is lots of fun.

The film relies on its characters. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is an 800 year old vampire. He is introduced as a "pervert," but he is really just heart-broken. He has been disappointed by the Beast (Elena Stejko), whose identity is revealed late in the picture. Viago (Taika Waititi) is a bit of a priss. He complains about Deacon's inability to wash the blood-soaked dishes. He also has a chore chart, which everyone ignores. This character and his scenes created for some of this viewer's favourite scenes. As well, Deacon is meant to be a "sexy vampire," at least to him. His best scenes occur during a bat fight. He often mugs for the camera, in flamboyant shirts. Finally, there is Petyr. He mostly looms in the basement, with a mute expression. It seems that even vampires can experience dementia and Alzheimer's? He bursts into flames, during a middle sequence. All of these characters and their extraordinary personalities bring forth a congenial form of humour, which is often enjoyable.

The film plays out like a play or an extended series of skits. The skits are pieced together with mild action sequences, with many of the scenes taking place inside a rundown house. This house turns into a trap, in one sketch. Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a potential vampire victim, is chased through the house. The vampires fly through the air on wire (removed with film magic), or they emerge in Nick's backpack. These sequences are laughable and that is where the farcical humour emerges. In an another sequence, Viago lures a young woman back to the abode. Strangely for the victim, he places newspaper on the ground, with towels at the ready. He is set to bite her. But, he mistakenly rips into her artery. Blood flies about. And, after hundreds of years, Viago still has not perfected his ability to leech from the living. These scenes and dozens of others create for lots of laughter, at least for one viewer.

What We Do in the Shadows is a must-see comedy. Though light in horror, the film utilizes its characters to offer lots of unexpected scenarios. Writers Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi have an ability to bring out the best in their actors, with dialogue driven humour. Low in budget, the film still manages to offer some exterior shooting sequences, with Viago finding his long lost love, in the body of a ninety year old. This scene and others are great for bringing forth some good chuckles. Though, the film does not develop a strong plotline. Also, it would have been curious to see more ad-libbed skits and to see how the characters respond to such spontaneous energy. Overall, What We Do in the Shadows is a highly recommended comedy, which should not be missed.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10.

*the film has recently released through Video-on-demand and DVD (May 19th, May 26th).

**recommended release: Vampire Killers on Amazon Instant


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