Thursday, April 9, 2015

What We Do In The Shadows

"Funny And/Or Die Presents..."
"WE Are Some Un-dead and Crazy Guys!"

Being a fan of "Flight of the Conchords" (the group and the show) made me want to see What We Do in the Shadows, the new "mockumentary" by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, written and directed by the two with ample opportunities for ad-libbing, off-the-ruffled-cuff remarks and (excuse this) biting satire, as is the New Zealanders' style.

WWDITS is a great idea for a comedy; it's an absurdist documentary about the life (or after-life) of vampires in the modern age. It begins with an alarm clock going off, and a hand snakes out of a coffin and slaps it quiet. It's sunset and Viago (379 years old and played by Waititi) gets up and makes "the rounds" to wake up his "flat-mates" and announce an upcoming flat-meeting, which is greeted with mixed enthusiasm. Petyr ("8,000 years old" and played by Ben Fransham) looks like Nosferatu and expresses his intent to miss the meeting by lunging at Viago and hissing. Vladislav (862 years old and played by Clement) yells he'll be there when his commingling with succubi is done, and Deacon (the youngest at 183 and played by Jonathan Brugh), hanging upside down in a closet and looking the worse for wear, trudges to the meeting.
Vladilav, Viago, Deacon, Petyr, Nick and Stu
The meet and greet is done for the camera as Viago takes the documentary crew on the rounds—a title card explains that "each crew member wore a crucifix and was granted protection from the subjects." It's necessary. "The subjects" are technically challenged and further, are inhibited by the vampiric rituals: they're all from different eras and so fashion is as subject to interpretation as anything and their lack of mirror-reflection limits their abilities for self-assessment (they're reduced to drawing pictures of each other); in order to stalk their victims, they go clubbing, but they can't go in until they're actually invited in—something the bouncers outside have a hard time understanding.
Yee-es.  Face it, being a vampire actually DOES suck.

But, despite being dead and such and the other inconveniences of vampirism, they also suffer everyday problems, too: "flat-mates" that don't pick up after themselves, leaving bloody dishes in the sink (Deacon), or a spinal column on the floor (Petyr), or the mess that occurs when you miscalculate and hit a main artery (Viago). Vladislav, being 862 years old, has a practical solution: "Why don't we just buy slaves?"

Messy, messy, messy...
Of course. The various vamps, being of different eras and parts of the world, have different approaches to everything, which makes them individual and distinctive, and shows a better understanding of what living the immortal life of a blood-sucker would be like than (say) the "Twilight" series, where Robert Pattinson's centuries old Edward Cullen still acts like a love-sick teenager. The Wellington 4 are a coffin-embedded graph of the advancement of mankind (of a sorts) but still does not paint a pretty picture of the situation—they are, after all, dead and blood-sucking.
That these four ended up together is a matter of tribalism and circumstance. Viago, for instance, followed a woman from Europe to New Zealand, by ship, but missed her by a few years being chained in a coffin in cargo when it (and he) weren't off-loaded. That could happen. Vladislav is there after a protracted battle with a creature he calls "The Beast." Daily (or rather, nightly) activities include the afore-mentioned "clubbing" in Wellington, random encounters with a local pack of werewolves (they taunt them by throwing imaginary sticks, which the lycans can't help but try and fetch—psych!), and generally hunting/gathering. They're careful about this, but every now and again, there's a slip-up, such as when one of their nights hunting produces a new vampire named Nick (Cori Gonzalez Macuer) who has a precipitously flat learning curve when it comes to "the lifestyle," He's also something of a jerk, picking fights with the others and managing to stumble across the down-side to everything. For instance, he has to announce to everybody he's a vampire, which worries the others that it will draw attention to them. Nick points out that they DO have a film-crew following them around, so...
There is one good point to Nick. He brings along with him a rather dull friend named Stu (Stuart Rutherford), who is an IT expert and introduces the vampires to the joys (and toils) of the internet and cell-phones (mirrors may not show vampires, but "selfies" do!).*  
It's a hoot (one would say "howl" but this isn't about werewolves). One wonders how raw the thing will be when you walk in, and it isn't, really, although there are a couple of scenes with geysers of blood, that are actually pretty hilarious, and to see Viago standing, chagrined, in the hall-way, soaked with blood holding a roll of paper towels, has a funny sense of the pathetic along with the horrific. It also has something a lot of movies that are played ad-libbed don't have—a sense of story. Threads of storyline are resolved, sometimes for laughs, sometimes quite winningly. The humor is macabre, a few notches higher than "The Addams Family," but the laughter will squelch any revulsion one might feel. This is "mock-horror," not true horror, and comedy, not tragedy. What We Do in the Shadows is darned funny. And it's hard to be threatened by it when one is giggling. 
* Stray thought: vampires don't appear in mirrors because of the silvered backing?

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