Monday, 9 February 2015

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Name the two things that are msot overdone in TV and film right now.

If you said "vampires" and "mockumentaries" then congratulations, we're both unusually tired of two quite specific things. It's strange then that this is the vampire mockumentary we didn't know we always wanted.

What We Do in the Shadows comes from the minds of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, two of the creative minds behind the massive cult hit Flight of the Conchords. Such a comedy pedigree bleeds into the bones of WWDitS and the style of humour blends well.

 WWDitS is the documentary put together by the New Zealand Documentary Board team that shadowed four vampire flatmates in Wellington, NZ. The house is like a police lineup of vampire classics: the violent and explosion Vladislav from somewhere  in Eastern Europe, a fancy 18th Century dandy in the form of Viago, Deacon the stylish and swaggering "youngster" at 183 years old and Petyr, the Nosferatu-esque ancient horror.

The four of them tackle issues that come up in all eternal lives. They have to feed on human blood, they struggle to keep up with technology, pine over long-dead lovers and argue about who has to wash the blood stained bowls that have been in the sink for years. The combination of the supernatural issues they face and the mundane gives the undead foursome a very human appeal, despite some of the sometimes digusting and sometimes hilarious (often both) things they carry out on their nights.

The style of humour is rapid, with quickfire jokes coming one after the next. The mockumentary style is used not like a crutch as it is in most TV shows right now, but to block off sections of the film with relative ease. It creates an atmosphere that feels almost like a combination of sketches, with little overarching plot, so don't go in expecting some Twilight drama you'll have trouble finding the vein.

A lot of the humour does feel quite obvious, but it's played off so smartly and genuinely that it works well enough to carry it off. Yes some of the jokes have been done before, and yes they were done because they were funny. The most cliché example lives in the rival pack of werewolves that the guys encounter a number of times through the film. The werewolves v zombies dynamic is nothing new, but the biting banter exchanged between the two, especially from pack's the alpha male (played by Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby). It's an easy joke to make, but not easy to do well, and this right here is one of my highlights.

The humour can kind of repeat itself, and not everything is original, but the quality of the jokes the team behind WWDitS breathes new life into at least two lifeless genres that have sorely been missing the blood in their veins.

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