Thursday, 12 February 2015

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Kiwi-Vamp MockDoc via VSC

1. A Fine Mess
2. Erotic Dance
3. Big Grumpy Pants
4. Impaling is always Fun
What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Dir. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
Starring: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Ben Fransham, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford, Jackie van Beek, Rhys Darby

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I should have hated this movie, but I couldn't. It's too good-natured and funny not to like. We're talking mockumentary, here. The subjects are vampires in New Zealand in the modern world. Just imagine a slightly broader This is Spinal Tap with blood-sucking before you go in and you're going to be just fine. I went in expecting nothing, mind you, but was rewarded with consistent laughs and often found myself soaring with joyous ebullience.

The set-up is pretty basic. A documentary crew (who always stay behind camera and don't ever appear as characters a la Rob Reiner in Spinal Tap) is granted permission to capture the daily lives of vampires (with a solemn oath that they'll never be attacked).

We're introduced to a "family" of four bloodsuckers and unlike our traditional notion of the undead living solitary lives in out-of-the-way castles, these fellas live in a sprawling dwelling in Wellington, New Zealand as - get this - flatmates.

Viago (Taika Waititi) is a bit frilly and foppish and takes on the role of fuss-budget den mother - always reminding his co-habitants of their household duties (sweeping, dusting, doing dishes and not leaving bloody spinal columns on the floor).

Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is a long-haired, moustachioed satyr who hails from an Eastern European tradition of impaling, though he prefers to call it "poking".

Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the youngest and hence, most immature of the bunch, complaining about having to lift even the slightest finger to fulfil his responsibilities as a flatmate.

Deep in the bowels of the basement lives the eldest of the group, Petyr (Ben Fransham), a grumpy, 8000-year-old Max Schrek (or depending on your cup of Nosferatu, Klaus Kinski) lookalike.

The camera crew conducts one-on-one interviews with the oddball assortment of vampires in addition to capturing their day-to-day activities. The lads especially enjoy nights on the town (save for Petyr, who seldom leaves the basement, preferring victims to be dragged downstairs for him) and we get to enjoy our sidewalk-sashaying nocturnal undead buds roaming about, making like Dion and the Belmonts' The Wanderers.

Vampire Jam Session
Alas, these oddly-attired "nerds" are refused entry to all the hottest clubs and usually end up in the same joint, a decidedly uncool watering hole full of others of their uncool ilk. Here they usually meet up with their human "slave" Jackie (Jackie van Beek) who not only cleans up their messes, but most importantly, procures victims for them to dine upon. Poor Jackie is infected with the vampire bug, but only enough to do the fellas' bidding.

Nick - Master Clubber
She longs for eternal life and wants it sooner rather than later. She feels she's in her prime and wants to stay that way forever. How long can a girl be expected to procure? One of the victims she does indeed appropriate for the lads is the youthful Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer). Rather than decimating him entirely, he's drained completely of blood and turned into a vampire himself, thus becoming a new flatmate. Good thing too.

Nick's quite the man about town and gets his pals into all the hottest nightclubs.

IT-whiz Stu introduces
our vampires to the INTERNET!
The only thing that troubles Nick, though, is not having the company of his best friend, the computer geek Stu (Stuart Rutherford). He cuts a deal with the other vampires to bring Stu into his confidence and into their private world - unmolested. This turns out to be the best deal ever for the fellas since Stu's an IT-whiz during his day job and soon has the vampires hooked on YouTube, Skype, FaceBook and all manner of cyber-shenanigans.

There's a tiny bit of conflict that creeps into the movie involving their natural rivals, the werewolves of Wellington and Nick's less-than-discrete bad habit of telling everyone he knows (or barely knows) that he and his buds are vampires. This brings far too much unwanted attention upon them including a genuine vampire hunter and visits from the local constabulary.

The film eventually builds to an absolutely insane climax when the lads attend an annual ball of vampires, witches and zombies which furthermore spills over into a potentially deadly conflict with the werewolves. None of this, however, is ever scary, though there's a decent amount of tension and plenty of surprises to be had.

All in all, this group of bloodsuckers prove to be genuinely charming and likeable fellows and the movie injects all the tropes and lore of vampirism into the proceedings to keep genre fans constantly delighted. The running time is mercifully short and the picture never overstays its welcome. Happily, the camera crew do capture more than a few chases and kills, but they're never offensively complicit in their actions like, for example, the filmmakers in the vaguely reprehensible Man Bites Dog. The mock-doc is true to the genre and we're never presented with the sort of gaffes that can, in lesser examples of the ilk, takes us completely out of the forward thrust of the piece.

Though I might have preferred some of the performances to be slightly less over-played, nobody is ever egregiously tongue-in-cheek. Surprisingly, the movie is full of moments that are genuinely sweet and, I kid you not, rather touching. God knows, mock-docs and vampire pictures have been done to death, but What We Do In The Shadows always feels fresh, funny and yes, occasionally original. The movie is also blessed with a terrific song score (including weird recurring themes of klezmer-like Romanian foot-tappers) wonderful makeup, digital and wire effects, plus some dazzling stunt work.

My only major quibble is that there are simply not enough babes in the movie. Yes, there are a few, but they take a major back seat to the fellas and what red-blooded genre-geek doesn't want a good amount of babe action?

Well, this writer, for one, but even I had to concede that my grumblings about the dearth of babes eventually fell upon my own deaf ears. These guys are a riot!


What We Do In The Shadows is currently in theatrical platform release throughout Canada via VSC (Video Services Corp). Upcoming playdates include:

February 13 opening:
TORONTO - Scotiabank Theatre
MONTREAL - Cinema Cineplex Forum
VANCOUVER - Cineplex International Village

February 20 opening:
OTTAWA - SilverCity Gloucester
CALGARY - Select CINEPLEX Locations

February 27 opening:
WINNIPEG - SilverCity Polo Park