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Review: ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ is Bloody Good Fun

With all this snow, I need to laugh. I’ve been reading John Waters’ Role Models, which is screamingly funny when it’s not seriously scary discussing Charles Manson, or to quote Mr. Waters: “the ultimate hippie bogeyman.” And, keeping to the theme of things that are darkly, edgily funny, I watched What We Do in the Shadows. The mockumentary about four nocturnal, bloodsucking flat-mates in Wellington, New Zealand reduced me to a quivering laugh zombie.

Not for the serious or staid, What We do in the Shadows is in the vein of Christopher Guest and the mockumentaries A Mighty Wind and Best in Show (OK, you pick your favorite.) Co-directed, co-written and co-starring Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark and TV’s Flight of the Conchords), it follows a reality TV format, MTV’s Real World meets Hammer Horror. It opens with an unseen camera crew observing foppish Viago (Waititi) reaching out of his casket to shut off the modern alarm at 6 PM. He peeks out the curtains, mugs for the camera and mischievously goes through the house calling “wakey, wakey” to his unusual companions.

Viago’s roommates include Vlad (Clement), more or less the Impaler, the slacker Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and, down in the cellar behind a granite lid, the inarticulate 800-year-old Nosferatu, Petyr (Ben Fransham). The gang copes with the usual sort of roommate issues – why won’t Deacon do the dishes when it’s his turn on the chore wheel, for example. And then there are the more particular problems: when Vlad seduces and sucks the life out of a victim in the parlor, why won’t he cover the furniture with towels and place newspapers on the carpet? How inconsiderate!

In a constant state of temporal identity crisis – nocturnal, from different centuries and hemispheres — the libidinous bloodsucking lads try to accommodate the cell phones and computers of modern life. A reunion scene on Skype between Viago and his ancient European familiar is particularly funny. Meanwhile, the flat-mates cross paths with the denizens of Wellington, including a pack of incredibly polite werewolves.

Like Guest’s comedies, the movie isn’t just a series of incredibly funny bits – although it is that – it also has sweetness and nerdy soul to it. I relished the ‘we’re all assholes why can’t we just get along’ bonhomie of these vampires (and werewolves) that couldn’t be further from the Twilight’s teen romantic angst. And they made me laugh until I begged for mercy in a way I hadn’t all this long, cold winter.

<p style=”text-align: right;”><strong>Thelma Adams, Editor, Film
</strong></p>
<p style=”text-align: right;”><strong>February 27, 2014</strong></p>
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