What We Do in the Shadows
Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. NZ. 2015. NR. 86 minutes. Unison Films. Digital.
Fri., May 1, 2015 thru Thu., May 7, 2015
“Parody is often regarded as the shallowest form of comedy, but when its powered by sympathy and emotional truth, it can transcend even supplant its target and become something positively moving. Thats whyThis is Spinal Tap with its honest love of the fantasy of being a rock star, even a failing one seems more real than real rock docs, and why the characters in the best of Christopher Guests mockumentaries are not just fools but holy fools, radiant in their humanity. Its why some of us want to scream with pleasure when Jemaine Clement inFlight of the Conchordsdelivers a number like Business Time, which reproduces the groovy-sexy cool of the most seductive song-stylists while capturing the essence of an oblivious, over-entitled child-man. Great parody doesnt wink; it deconstructs.
Though these vampires are hundreds, in one case thousands of years old, they seem as comfortable as our Say Anything generation revealing their innermost feelings to millions of strangers. In a beard and top hat that make him resemble the Portuguese antihero Coffin Joe, Vlad explains that back when he tortured and murdered thousands of people, he was in a bad place. Hes more reflective after an emasculating encounter with something called the Beast which turns up later and is, indeed, horrifying. A relatively young (under two centuries) bloodsucker, Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), regards himself as catnip for the ladies and strings along a human slave, Jackie (Jackie van Beek) by promising her eternal life. Someday. Shes beginning to think hes exploiting her.
Their lives like those of many college boys revolve around vegging out, partying (to find victims), and slaking the munchies (releasing gouts of blood). Occasionally they pass a rival frat of lycanthropes led by Conchords Murray, Rhys-Darby, whos mature enough to get between hissing vampires and snarling werewolves and stop his pals from transforming. (We talked about this… Just breathe… Breathe…) Before the joke pales, a narrative of sorts kicks in. A victim (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) survives and becomes a vampire himself but is loath to part with his human mate, Stu (Stuart Rutherford)a mild fellow for whom the others, unused to sharing their place with someone not undead, develop a competitive and faintly homoerotic affection. But how can they keep other ghouls from eating him?
I can think of many reasons why What We Do in the Shadows kills. Inserts of demon-depicting paintings and wood cuttings that span centuries and cultures are beautifully evocativeeven with our vampire protagonists heads photoshopped in. Clement and Waititi are intimate with the conventions of vampire movies and reality TV and must have had a crazy-great time blending the unblendable in the best SCTV tradition. But its the absence of camp that I keep coming back to. They scale it down and play it real. Theyre undeadpan.” (David Edelstein, New York Magazine)
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