Mockumentaries are rarely good. Oh sure, you have your occastional This is Spinal Tap and such, but most of the time mockumentaries never feel like they know how to properly make the humor work in a documentary format. A lot of it comes from filmmakers thinking that making a mockumentary is going to easy. You mostly need one camera, talking heads etc. The problem is that I never really like the characters they come up with (most of the time the characters are wannabe David Brents from The Office AKA giant a-holes.) The biggest problem is never FULLY committing to the documentary format. All of a sudden you have the camera shooting scenes that they couldn’t realistically shoot, you have characters doing talking head segments that don’t go anywhere etc.
Even a good filmmaker like Justin Lin (who made the really EXCELLENT Fast and the Furious movies) failed to make a really great mockumentary. His film, Finishing the Game, had a strong premise but an overall weak delivery. I have a hard time trying to remember what happened in the film, and more importantly I have a HARDER time trying to remember what was funny about the movie.
Vampire stories are also a dime a dozen nowadays. Were else can we go with these creatures of the night? What new angle can be explored, or even RE-explored? I was having my fill of vampire stories and I just couldn’t be bothered to be interested in seeing another one.
That’s why when I say I loved What We Do in the Shadows, it’s a really big deal to me and it shows how much I think this film is great.
The movie is about four vampires who live in a flat in New Zealand. They have allowed a documentary film crew to shoot them and to let them have a glimpse of their world as modern vampires.
Our vampires are Viago (played by co-director/co-writer Taika Waiti) who was a dandy man in the 1600’s, Vladislav (played by co-director/co-writer Jemaine Clement) who was also known as the infamous torturer Vlad the Poker, Deacon (played by Jonathan Brugh) the bad boy vampire and Petyr (played by Ben Fransham) who is the oldest member of the household and is the one that looks the most monstrous.
The fun in the movie is that the gang kinda represents an iconic vampire character. Vladislav is clearly a take on Vlad the Impaler aka the man who inspired Dracula, Deacon is sort of like a frumpy version of Anne Rice’s Lestat and Petyr is pretty much Nosferatu.
The great thing about these guys is that, while they are vampires, at their heart they are kinda loveable losers who are pretty damn close friends. The opening of the movie does a sensational job of setting up everything; their relationship with each other, how they see the world, what mundane looks to THEM, and it’s all done with a great amount of energy, style and humor that by the time the films title finally pops up I was already in.
I’m not sure who I love more. Vlad is a classic Jemaine Clement role , but I’m so fond of Deacon as he is perfectly pathetic in his attempt to be cooler then he thinks he is. His erotic dance is something that has to be seen.
The movie really is chock full of great humor. Fans of Flight of the Conchords will be happy to know that their style of humor is all over this film. The unique back and forth in the dialogue and the subversive comedy is still there. The one thing they have to get use to is the films shocking use of gore.
Wait…let me rephrase that.
The films HILARIOUS use of gore.
There is a ton of blood being shot out in the film, but somehow it’s all done with comedic effect. Yes, the blood shed is done with comedic effect.
It also surprisingly doesn’t forget that these guys are vampires, and vampires ARE scary. The film has a huge chase sequence where we see the guys go after a fresh victim. The scene is a great mix of humor, legit freakiness and clever visuals gags that all feel effortless.
That’s the other thing too, this film has a ton of great visual tricks in it. There’s a sequence in which the vampires are fighting each other in the house and the great use of practical sets and camera tricks really has to be applauded for it’s brilliant simplicity.
But the main thing to remember about the film, is that the movie has a surprising amount of heart. Yes, the film is a fun look at all the classic vampire troupe but it’s still a film that works because of the characters and their friendships. I can’t recommend this one enough.
The film will have a limited release this week (only LA and New York will show it this week) and it will come out in a few theaters here and there. (Click here for the full information on where to see it.)
BUT, if you wanna see it in the theaters near you, the filmmakers have a Kickstarter! They are trying to raise the money to get the movie a much wider release. If this review helped peaked your interest, check out the link to the Kickstater HERE.