Tuesday, October 20, 2015

DVD of the Week: What We Do in the Shadows

Ah, Vampires, you just can't seem to keep them down. We still seem to be in the midst of a never-ending zombie-apocalypse, but Vampires have been with us a lot longer, and show no signs of going away. Yes, they've been (mostly) turned from blood-hungry predators to slightly creepy ideal boyfreind material, but that mutability is in many ways a strength, and certainly the more sympathetic, tragic vampire had given us some good stuff as well as the bad. There is also enough breadth of material that I'm surprised there isn't more spoofery around. Certainly there has been a couple of pretty terrible attempts at it, but it's taken a long time for me to finally find on I really, really liked. And that honour goes to indie New Zealand mockumentary, What We Do In the Shadows

A title card explains that the following footage was taken by a camera team wearing crucifixes and offered all the usual protection again being eaten, as they follow a group of vampires flat sharing in Wellington, New Zealand. We're introduced to them by Viago, an 18th centry romatic still pining for  his lost love from the 1920s, who lives with Vladislav (basically Dracula), Deacon (from the 19th century and the groups angry teenager) and Petyr (basically Count Orlok). The crew follows them over a period of months, interviewing them and their aquaintances, leading up the annual Masquerade Ball, a big event of the supernatural year. 

The whole thing is wonderfully low stakes for a bunch of characters with all the usual vampire powers; hypnosis, shape-shifting, that sort of thing. We follow then out hunting for mortal prey, interacting with a wonderfully chippy minion, and generally making a low-grade mess of everything. Sure, they kill people and drink their blood, but the film plays it all with such a straight bat it just becomes funny, and the characters remain likeable throughout, even when they're acting like big, blood-hungry children. 

Crucially though, What We Do in the Shadows is really funny. I suspect the deadpan mockumentary style isn't to everyones takes (I can find it hit and miss, to be fair) but it really works here, even allowing them to mask some of the patchier special effects (flying, transforming) due to the camera "missing" the action. We laughed all the way through it,right up to it's surprisingly touching denouement. It's currently on Netflix, so if you've got that, it's well worth checking out there.