Sunday, 1 January 2017

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

'One day I was selling my wears, and I walked past this old creepy castle. And I look at it and think, 'Very old and creepy!'. And then this creature... flies at me! It dragged me back to this dark dungeon. And bit into my neck. And just at the point of death; this creature forced me to suck its foul blood. And then it opened it's wings, like this. And hovered above me. Screeching. 'Now you are vampire.' And it was Petyr. And we're still friends today.'

House sharing is always fun, especially when you all have something in common. Like being vampires. Deacon is the bad boy, but loves knitting. Gentle Viago is in love, but is taking decades to pluck of courage to pop the question. Vladislav is a stylish medieval warlord, but he's never been the same since his clash with The Beast. And in the cellar in 8,000 year old Petyr, who bears a remarkable resemblance to a certain Mr Barlow from the TV adaption of Salem's Lot.

Sometimes a good film slips by you. That certainly happened with this New Zealand vampire mockumentary. WWDITS is very silly, great fun, and pays homage to vampire movies by offering pretty much all of the standard ingredients and imagery. It is intelligent, knowing, but not smug or cynical. If anything, it reaffirms your faith in humanity by pointing out that we can't escape our idiocy and egotism, but that we still need each other. If only to feed on.

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The lead roles are taken by Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords) as Vladislav, Taika Waititi as Viago, and Johnny Brugh as Deacon. In the now-familiar reality show format they have arguments, have fun, and give their individual pieces to camera. Many fascinating details of vampire life are revealed, like the problems caused by inadequate postage on your crate and the terrible consequences of eating chips. Trying to get into a nightclub is a problem, because the doorman just won't invite them in. There's also friction with the local werewolf pack in Wellington, which is led by Jason Hoyte who played Murray in Conchords. As alpha male Julian he is very sensible about the whole tearing people to bits business, and also insists on politeness. 'We're werewolves, not swearwolves!'

Some excellent minor characters cast light on all the bizarre vampire stuff we just take for granted. Deacon's minion is Jackie, a slightly stroppy woman hoping for eternal life, but not in any immediate danger of being bitten. She has to take a lot of bloody clothing to the launderette. Then there's Nick, who is accidentally vampirised by Petyr, and then starts telling everyone about it. This brings a genuine vampire hunter down on the pals. But it also brings Nick's mate Stu, who works in IT and introduces the gang to the joys of the internet. One of the most poignant scenes shows them watching a sunrise online.

The grand climax of the 'story' is a ball at which all the undead and generally occult creatures in the greater Wellington area converge for a knees up. We finally discover the identity of The Beast, and the vampires show themselves to be good blokes who will not let a mate down in a crisis. The whole Nick and Stu business transforms the setup but also allows the housemates to move on to new stages in their none-lives. It's oddly uplifting, perhaps because in a world like this, vampires can't really be seen as too monstrous. Anyway, I enjoyed it. And there's lots of bouncy Balkan music, too,

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